K-pop program 'Produce 48' puts creative power in the hands of online voters

The fate of the contestants with K-pop dreams rests with online voters.

SEOUL, South Korea -- "National producers, thank you for your vote and support!"

That's the message from performers of Produce 48, a K-pop idol audition program in South Korea, to their "producers" -- or the viewers of the show.

The program’s goal is simple: At the end of a three-month run, 12 members out of the 96 contestants will be chosen as the winning K-pop idol group for two and a half years.

The female contestants electioneer with a fervent zeal for each 90-minute-long program.

In its third season, the show -- which has a motto to “produce an idol group, according to your taste” -- has already created a highly marketable girl-band and boy-band each of its first two seasons.

This year, the program has broadened its scope to widen viewership. In addition to its 57 contestants from South Korea, it has invited another 39 from Japan.

The talent show opened the season with the 96 girls and their mentors, seasoned K-pop entertainers in South Korea who help them improve their singing and dancing and evaluate the contestants on a grading system of A to F.

The fate of the girls rests with online voters, who cast a vote online every other day. After the first ranking announcement, 58 trainees were left to continue in the high-stakes contest; once the second ranking is done next Friday, only 30 will remain.

The voters, whom trainees refer to as "producers," say they are pleased that their vote actually matters in forming an idol group. Some fans participate more actively by uploading videos and pictures on social media, explaining why people should vote for their pick.

“I watch the program every Friday, mainly to follow up on my favorite trainee. I feel proud to be her fan when she does well on given missions,” said Kim Soo Jung, who has watched Produce 48 since it started in 2016. “I feel like I have become an idol producer myself, which gives more meaning than any other audition shows.”

And the catchy theme song of the program plays a big part in its popularity, too. Despite the fact that its lyrics are in Korean, the chorus is catchy and is said to linger in your head once you hear it.

“The theme song is well-produced and memorable,” Adam Park, who uploads K-pop reaction video on YouTube, told ABC News. “The EDM inspired sound worked as a surprising yet refreshing choice.”

As the final competition approaches, fans are holding high expectations for the last survival mission and the concert the trainees are going to display live on August 31.