Kiwi stars on Chinese dating show
A New Zealand-born man who has never watched dating shows will star on a Chinese match-making programme viewed by an average of 300 million people.
That is about 1500 times more people than live in Sam Pearson's home town of Wellington.
The 34-year-old will appear on Fei Cheng Wu Rao on May 20. It is China's second most popular show – the state-owned news was the most viewed, Mr Pearson said.
Although the dating show was filmed last month, he was unable to reveal whether he was successful in finding a suitable partner – but said it was not the best way to find a wife.
Mr Pearson ended a relationship last year with a Kiwi woman, with whom he was living in Beijing.
"I mention that on the show and subsequently had a phone call with her saying I talked about you in front of 300 million people. It may not be the best way to deal with a breakup."
Mr Pearson moved from New Zealand to China eight years ago after completing studies in Japanese, Chinese and economics at Otago University, and spending three years in Japan.
He is a member of Kea - New Zealand's global network of 32,000 kiwis living, and often working, overseas.
He works as a senior sponsorship manager for the Chinese Women's Tennis Association, which is how the famous show found him.
Mr Pearson was approached three weeks ago to take part in the show and said he agreed because he wanted to promote tennis and get an insight into the entertainment industry.
"Then if anything else comes out of it that would be a bonus."
Match-making is ingrained in the Chinese culture, with mothers even meeting in parks to promote their children to potential in-laws, he said.
"[They] exchange their sons and daughters like trading cards."
Fei Cheng Wu Rao was met with scepticism when it first aired in 2010, but has gained critical success. The show in which Mr Pearson features will be the 234th episode.
It is based on a similar format to Australia's Taken Out. One man is put into a room with 24 women, who are shown a few video clips about his life. They then fire questions at him and choose whether they want to pursue a relationship with him.
"They turn their lights on or leave them off. If they leave them off that's it, they're out of the game," Mr Pearson said.
If two or more lights remain on towards the end of the show then the man chooses just two women he wants to find out more about. He asks them questions before deciding which one he wants to go on a date with.
Mr Pearson confirmed he reached this stage, but is not saying what happened next.