TV watching by Shutterstock
Two people watching a large-screen tv.

About 814 million people tuned in to watch China’s Lunar New Year program on state-run CCTV last week, more than seven times the ratings of the Super Bowl, making the program the world's most-watched event of 2014 so far.

For comparison, the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 drew 111.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched show in U.S. television history. The London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony drew about 900 million viewers.

China Central Television (CCTV) has broadcast the country's five-hour-long, commercial-free New Year celebration, known as Spring Festival Gala, every year since 1983. Chinese families gather to make jiaozi dumplings and watch the show, which features singing, dancing and mini dramas, as well as cross-talk dialogues, martial arts and opera performances, according to CCTV.

More than 700 million people watched the show on CCTV this year, about the same number as last year. And the number of viewers watching online with PCs, laptops, phones or tablets grew 15 percent from last year to 110 million.

Leading Chinese comedy film director Feng Xiaogang led the event and was the first director ever chosen from outside CCTV to direct the gala.

Notable performers included South Korean pop star Lee Min-ho, Harlem Yu from Taiwan, the French actress Sophie Marceau, Hong Kong singer Kelly Chen, actor Tony Leung, pianist Lang Lang and comedian Zhao Benshan.

Many of the performances featured horses, as 2014 is the year of the horse in the Chinese zodiac.

The show also mentioned the “China Dream” multiple times, a socialist idea of collective prosperity and unity endorsed by President Xi Jinping. One of the singers interpreting the "China Dream" idea was mocked by bloggers for making no real progress, as he was walking and running on a treadmill.

Apparently that's not the only part of the show that turned viewers off. More than 60 percent said they were disappointed with the program, according to one survey by the China News Network. Several young viewers posted photos online of their families, especially of older family members, falling asleep during the program.

"Are you sick of the same old CCTV New Year’s gala regurgitating worn-out political slogans in song and dance?" one writer at the Epoch Times, a newspaper in New York with a focus on China, wrote.

Chinese rocker Cui Jian, known as China’s Bruce Springsteen and whose music is reminiscent of the 1989 pro-democracy movement, was scheduled to appear but then cancelled over censorship concerns.

Many Spring Festival galas hosted by state media and regional ministries were banned by the Communist Party.

CCTV has banned commercials from the program in the past few years in order to encourage austerity.


(Note: Two people watching t.v. by