TV Host Dasmond Koh is now a producer of online variety shows

Freshmen, where hunks perform tasks in a classroom, is television host Dasmond Koh's first variety show on the Web

Online variety show Freshmen stars (from left) Gavin Teo, Zong Zijie, Jerald Foo, Timothy Chan, Aloysius Pang, Michelle Tay and Xu Bin.
Online variety show Freshmen stars (from left) Gavin Teo, Zong Zijie, Jerald Foo, Timothy Chan, Aloysius Pang, Michelle Tay and Xu Bin.PHOTO: NOONTALK MEDIA
NoonTalk's Dasmond Koh (far left) and Cruz Teng.
NoonTalk's Dasmond Koh (far left) and Cruz Teng.PHOTO: CRUZ TENG

Seasoned television host Dasmond Koh is adding another building block to his growing show business enterprise.

The founder and chief executive of talent agency NoonTalk Media has gone into producing his own online variety shows.

The multi-hyphenate launched his first game show Freshmen last month and plans to roll out a talk show within the year.

Koh, 43, who founded NoonTalk in 2011, says he decided to ride on the "digital wave" of viewers and companies that are migrating online.

Citing Chinese online entertainment portal LeTV, he says: "The media landscape is evolving. LeTV almost functions like a TV station. It produces its own programmes. It acquires and buys programmes. Increasingly, people are choosing to watch shows online too."

He has roped in long-time friend and former radio station Yes 933 head and deejay Cruz Teng to help produce the shows.

Teng, 36, says: "We decided to be adventurous since we have the resources. Dasmond has the experience. NoonTalk has a little bit of money. We also have the talents. The shows serve as a platform for them too."

Teng left Mediacorp last November to join NoonTalk Media as its creative director. He will host the new talk show.

Freshmen is filmed in a classroom setting where hunks complete assigned tasks, from crafting Chinese sentences to solving mathematics problems. At the same time, they entertain with their cheeky banter in Mandarin and English.

Comedienne Michelle Tay, 46, is the resident "teacher" facilitating games among the male "students".

She says the show's appeal lies in the chemistry between the "xiao xian rou", which literally means young fresh meat in Mandarin and is a slang term used to describe handsome young men.

"My friends are envious I get to hang out with these handsome guys. There was not an awkward moment on set. I was laughing so much," says Tay.

The boyish cast are made up of working adults in their 20s. They include NoonTalk's stable of artists Xu Bin, 27; Aloysius Pang, 25; and Gavin Teo, 21. There is also wushu coach Timothy Chan, 25; and part-time model and electrical engineering services business owner Jerald Foo, 29.

The team has filmed 10 episodes of Freshmen at a makeshift studio at NoonTalk's office in Harper Road.

New episodes, each lasting about 10 minutes, will be uploaded weekly on NoonTalk's Facebook.

Since Freshmen's first episode premiered last month, it has garnered more than 150,000 views.

Executive producer Koh is aware of the uphill task of attracting eyeballs on the video-saturated Internet.

He is counting on the support of the existing fanbase of Pang and Xu Bin, the agency's popular idols.

Both actors are arguably NoonTalk's most successful stars with their numerous roles on Channel 8 primetime dramas. Both are among the 20 nominees shortlisted for the Top 10 Most Popular Male Artists at next month's Star Awards.

Having groomed the duo from scratch, Koh hopes to uncover more new talent through Freshmen.

They are looking to cast teenage boys, aged 13 to 16, in Freshmen. Interested parties can send a private message to NoonTalk's Instagram account (@noontalk_media).

The cast not only provide the eye candy and laughs, they also chip in ideas for the show. Koh says: "We may possess the technical know-how. We know how the set should be lit or how to edit the show to keep the audience hooked. But the cast are the savvy ones in touch with the latest trends."

For instance, Pang suggested incorporating a lip-reading game he had seen on American talk show The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.

"It's funny to watch. Netizens leave comments saying that they are trying it out. I haven't seen a Mandarin version, so I thought we should try it out," says Pang, who tried to lip-read in the second episode.

Each episode costs five figures to produce and includes post- production costs and crew and talents' fees.

Teng says they are sourcing for advertisers and are open to doing product placements.

The first and second episodes feature advertisements from snack brand London Chocolate Roll and sports label Puma respectively.

However, making a profit is not his top priority, says Koh. His ultimate dream is to produce a top- rated variety show such as Taiwanese talk show Mr Con & Ms Csi.

Fans went online to beg the hosts not to quit the show, which ended its 12-year run last year.

Koh says: "Hopefully, the shows we create can become a phenomenon like Mr Con & Ms Csi. We hope our programmes can touch viewers from all walks of life."

•Watch Freshmen on NoonTalk Media's Facebook

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2016, with the headline 'Fresh foray into online shows'. Subscribe