Since the show’s debut in 1983, China Central Television’s Spring Festival Gala has become a fixture with millions of mainland viewers who tune in the star-studded variety program every Lunar New Year’s eve.
This year, more than 800 million expected viewers on Feb. 18 will be able to do more than just watch and count down the seconds to the Year of the Goat. Technology has been making the CCTV show more of a two-way affair with interactive features so that the mobile-phone-wielding public can participate.
Through social, interactive channels built by TVM, a Beijing-based digital content-management company, and running on networks operated by Aliyun, Alibaba Group’s cloud-computing arm, audiences during the broadcast will be able to comment on performances, participate in lucky draws, and snap up virtual red packets, among other activities.
Audience interaction has for many years been a goal of traditional TV broadcasters, one that has been brought within reach by the country’s growing ranks of smartphone users and the mobile Internet.
Mega-events like the Spring Festival Gala pose special challenges to interactive technology because of the sheer volume of traffic. Last year, some 704 million people watched the show on TV while another 110 million viewed a live feed streamed over the Internet.
To boost network capacity for mobile applications, TVM uses Aliyun’s on-demand distributed cloud services, allowing the company to cost-effectively scale up its I.T. infrastructure to cope with massive, temporary spikes in users.
“We usually rent Aliyun’s service for two days when running the live broadcast, starting from 12 hours prior to the event,” said an unnamed TVM official in a statement released by Aliyun. “The traditional I.T. solution required us to allocate resources to meet peak demand, which is a waste of money because most of the year those resources are underutilized.”
For the 2015 Spring Festival, Aliyun is providing interactive bandwidth not only to CCTV but also to Hunan TV, Jiangsu TV, Tianjin TV, and Beijing TV.
On Dec. 31, Aliyun and TVM teamed up to handle mobile interactive traffic for China Central Television’s New Year’s Eve show, during which 1.15 million audiences participated in lucky draws and 30,000 users commented on performance using their smartphones. The mobile channel successfully processed more than 100,000 visits.