Wong Cho Lam on Boosting Morale at TVB

Since assuming his role as TVB Creative Director in January, Wong Cho Lam (王祖藍) is burdened with the task of increasing employee morale, handling the expectations of the executive team in regards to a system overhaul, and dealing with criticism from viewers. It definitely is a much harder task than his previous successful artiste career in China.

Not Motivated by Money

Revealing why he decided to join TVB’s managerial ranks instead of building his own more lucrative artiste career in China, Cho Lam said his “relationship with TVB isn’t about money.” Pointing out that “gaining management experience” is more valuable than money as it is an encounter he may never come across in his “entire life as an artiste,” Cho Lam decided to rise to the challenge.

Since the competition in the China market is fierce, is Cho Lam not afraid that he will be forgotten with less appearances in Mainland variety shows? He said, “I hope to maintain my relationships with all the Chinese television channels to give TVB and my colleagues a chance.”

Eager to Bring Ideas to Life

The past few months has seen TVB release more different genres of variety shows than the past decade. Since Cho Lam’s return, TVB released Have a Big Laugh <開心大綜藝>, Mama’s Day <日日媽媽聲>, Dub of War <好聲好氣>, Case Unclosed <死因有可疑>, and Top Sales <識貨>. The ratings performance and reviews of these new variety shows varied.

Cho Lam wants TVB staff to not be afraid to try new ideas, even if the ratings performance is not ideal. Citing that the ratings for Case Unclosed was poor since it was an experiment, Cho Lam felt that trying new concepts is an important step towards improvement.

“We need to increase the morale within the team and give them chances. If they are able to produce an idea, then there should be a chance to bring it to life. This is the balance that we need to find between the company, market, and employee morale,” Cho Lam enthused.

“Once we’ve determined a model that works, then I won’t have to monitor it so closely. During Dub of War, I visited filming once or twice. For Top Sales, I visited once and could already tell that everything was going to be okay. I should be letting go and trust my colleagues to handle things, as not everything needs my involvement. If everything needs my approval, then the process would be very slow.”

Wong Cho Lam inside his office at TVB.

Seniority is Not Important

Quantity over quality seems to be TVB’s working model in the past years. Unfortunately, it has resulted in low employee morale and engagement. Even Liza Wang (汪明荃), who is one of the most respected artistes at TVB, has made many attempts to publicly advocate for her colleagues and that they should be paid more and given more opportunities.

When deciding on the cast and crew to work on variety shows, Cho Lam does not care about seniority. “Before my return to TVB, many people told me that there isn’t enough work.” From Dub of War to Top Sales, Cho Lam has specifically arranged for many second and third tier artistes to participate to be more inclusive so everyone is able to have work.

Acknowledging that “knowing people’s strengths is also a form of respect,” Cho Lam hopes the extra visibility in variety shows will give more spotlight for supporting artistes to shine.  “I hope to find a spot to give them that respect. Each variety show can only feature about 10 to 20 artistes, but it’s worth a try.”

Due to the sheer number of company employees and safety precautions taken during the pandemic, Cho Lam can only take the opportunity during celebratory dinners to hear suggestions from colleagues. “I also started off as an artiste, so I am very concerned over their needs. At the end of the day, the company is still a business and it’s hard to have that balance. We can only see what we can change in the policies, or how we can change our communication or attitude to make artistes feel more comfortable.”

Dealing With Harsh Feedback

Given TVB’s declining ratings and inability to engage viewers, netizens have been especially harsh in their reactions. After so many years in the industry, Cho Lam is used to inflammatory reactions online. He joked his Christian faith made him a very forgiving person. “If I get upset over these things, then I wouldn’t be able to stay here.”

Cho Lam pointed out “the most important thing is to not disappoint my colleagues and fellow artistes. This was a factor I considered before taking on this job. Especially in the Information Age, everyone needs and takes that opportunity to vent their frustrations online.”

Admitting there are still many areas of improvement, Cho Lam sincerely asked viewers for a little more time and for the media to be a little less critical.

Eric Tsang Disappointed by the Departure of TVB Staff

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Source: HK01

This article is written by Kiki for JayneStars.com.

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  1. A little more time, a little less critical. This sentence stood out for me when I read the article. The thing is TVB needs that slap on the face, harder and more painful so that it wakes up. It has taken for granted its talented stable veterans. It has abandoned many of its ideals and purpose, if there’s any. Making variety shows won’t save the studio, it just makes artistes’ lives harder. they are actors, so let them act. Why not invest in good stories, better production and seriously find new talents? The so called new talents are all so inadequate. Find new stories. In fact, remake the stories but make something different. Give us the olden days of great wuxias where TVB still does it best. TVB can do so much better even with the lack of pool of talent but unfortunately it still feels lost. I can never understand a hit like exorcist metre is not given a stable seasonal approach, movie treatment, better story writing. It has a vast possibility of a vast universe and is received positively and yet TVB went on to make more dr dramas like as if we need it. Therefore, sorry Cho Lam, I watched TVB series since I was a kid. To me TVB to me is like McD for other kids. I’ve seen the best, the worst, been thru ups and downs and suffered thru bad actors who became better or never improved and good actors who became better or turned stale. I have earned the right to criticise TVB and watching 2 latest series now I can say TVB still failed at storytelling and using their actors. As for the new actors, for heaven sake, please someone train them before they are thrown into the public to be devoured. No amount of good PR can hide bad acting.

    1. @funn “Making variety shows won’t save the studio, it just makes artistes’ lives harder. they are actors, so let them act.”

      As Eric Tsang and Wong Cho Lam’s expertise are in variety shows, it is understandable that they want to make quick impact by focusing on these shows first. Variety shows have a much faster turnaround than dramas. They can be filmed and edited days before their weekly broadcast. If the variety show is received well, TVB can drum up product endorsements quickly and turn fast profits. Throw enough new shows out there, and one or two winners can generate big returns especially if they capture Mainland Chinese viewers.

      As for dramas, the changes will be slower and harder. The deep-rooted problems of budget, rushed production process, and inadequately trained artistes remain. While not specifically mentioned in interviews, Eric and Cho Lam seem to allow the station’s producers power to oversee drama production without getting too involved.

      TVB dramas still seem catered to the local market, while its sister company Shaw Brothers has the funding and resources to turn out more high-quality projects.

      However, I hope TVB realizes that while variety shows may turn around some quick money, high quality dramas are more critical for their international brand and long-term success. They should also negotiate more deals with Netflix to have more of their dramas aired there for greater international exposure.

  2. I was a big fan of TVB’s drama but for a year or so now I am leaning towards the china drama & variety shows. To be honest I was able to watch a lot of dramas on youtube & the accessibility is so high. I have to say this, is that if u notice or not? Korean girls wear their mini skirts very naturally, I have seen Chinese girls from China wears them naturally too but when I saw Hongkong Chinese girls wear them it does not appeal to me. The trend is very different between them. There is so much news on youtube about the stars , it is a good promotion to get to know the stars. To search for a star & to keep searching & able to find out more about a star is what ppl. r looking for. Right now I am a big fan of the China drama & variety shows. I do like Liza Magic, Do Do Eat. I like those 2 . Looking forward to TVB’s turnover in dramas & variety shows. Wishing them great success in the future.

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