It was less than a year ago when we wrote about what became the most significant reorgnization of the SNH48 Group since it was formed in 2016 with the debut of BEJ48 and GNZ48 (later followed by SHY48 and CKG48 – both disbanded).
We believed at the time that this losing teams C, K, SIII, and HIII was a necessary evil that would ultimately position the group for a better future. It appears we may have all been wrong.
The fall of the J-pop style idol
Only a few of the rumoured 200+ groups that had been in development ever saw the light of day and none of them ended up adopting a Japanese styling or mode of operation.
China had a litteral idol boom in 2016 when a dozen theater-style (Japanese style) groups were actively competing in the sphere: SNH48, BEJ48, GNZ48, Lady Bees, 1934, Cherry Girls, and many others. That boom went bust pretty much as quickly as it started.
This was due to several factors including sudden over-saturation of a yet to mature niche market which led to all these groups cannibalizing the same limited pool of fans. The nature of the Chinese fandom which is far more aggressive and less tolerant of mistakes by management teams also played a big part.
The rise of idol competitions
Another critical factor that came into play is the sudden arrival of the K-pop style idol competitions in the Chinese market.
The news that most idol competition shows are rigged as done little to limit the fervour of fans around the world for the groups born out of them.
These shows (Tencent’s “Produce” and IQIYI’s “Idol Producer” series mostly) totally rewrote the rules of the game in the country. From 2013 to 2017, SNH48 and TFboys (both modeled on Japan) were the references for everyone.
As of 2018, the new idol shows took dominance with their carefully curated scenarios where fans were invited to participate in rigged votes that would determine which lucky boy or girl out of 100s would get to form a new short-lived (2 year contracts) idol team with a team coming every year to keep things fresh.
This format is taking Asia by storm even reaching the shores of Japan in 2019. It has become so dominant that even SNH48 is now sending representatives on these shows for the first time after refusing to participate several times.
Groups like Rocket Girls, UNINE, R1SE, and others born out of those shows are now the ones in demand. The redeeming grace for SNH48 Group is the fact that, so far, only one girl group has been born from it which limits the competition for now.
More disbandments to come
Ask any fan who goes to the theaters and you will hear the same story: attendances are down significantly. With the exception of special events, the number of fans have dropped as the SNH48 product has matured and people are looking for the “next thing”.
SNH48 is generally doing better than the sister groups but that’s not good news for BEJ48, GNZ48, and CKG48 Reborn. Part of the reason why CKG48 is losing their current theater at the end of this year is because they haven’t been able to maintain a certain level of attendance (the venue pockets a big part of the ticket revenue).
Even Team X might get axed despite their recent debut of a brand new original stage.
If fan rumour is to be believed, with some of it even confirmed/hinted at by members, we will see the demise of teams J and Z for certain following the 6th Best50 Request Time.
Fans should look at this as less of a drop in popularity of SNH48 and more as a drop in popularity of the format inherited from Japan.
What happens to our girls?
Like in January 2019, some members will be moved to fill holes in other teams and the less popular ones will end up being let go or sent to the “purgatory” that has become “IDOLS Ft” (assuming that survives).
It does appear that members have already been told of the fate of their team and we assume their individual fates as well so, at least, it will only come as a surprise to fans.
This is never news that any fan wants to hear but China is an extremely competitive market where groups are born and die in an instant.
SNH48 Group is 7 years old which is unprecedented for a domestic girl group.
That’s an accomplishment to remember as we head into 2020!