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Chinese online short dramas seek ever-growing success

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-06-01 10:43

The filming of a costume drama-themed miniseries in Hengdian World Studios, Zhejiang province, in March. The venue has attracted many production teams to shoot miniseries.[Photo provided by Qian Chenfei/China News Service]


The short-video boom in China has changed viewing habits, leading to a surge in a new format known as micro-dramas or miniseries, which feature episodes between tens of seconds to over 10 minutes.

Accessible to anyone with a smartphone or smart device, these short series, featuring multiple plot twists and rapid story development, have quickly gained a large following.

Last year, the market size of China's online short series was 37.39 billion yuan ($5.26 billion), soaring 268 percent from a year earlier, with the market expected to exceed 100 billion yuan by 2027, according to data compiled by iiMedia Research, a China-based business analysis firm.

Boasting short production schedules and small budgets, many successful online miniseries have generated lucrative profits. Usually promoted on short-video platforms, such as Douyin and Kuaishou, their income is largely from users paying to see the complete production.

The online miniseries Unparalleled produced by Fung Culture based in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, set a record by earning revenue of over 100 million yuan in the eight days following its release.

Many new players have tapped into this market. In 2023, a total of 557 online miniseries were registered with the National Radio and Television Administration, more than double the number in 2022.

Along with the rising number of series, miniseries also face an increasing need for upgrades as well as strong regulation.

Short online dramas were mostly adapted from online novels with limited themes, such as unbeatable heroes, the growth of characters, or female-perspective romances, but since this year, many producers have begun to try more diverse themes, such as suspense and period dramas, according to an industry insider.

China is also improving the industry's regulations. The National Radio and Television Administration removed more than 350,000 episodes of those deemed to contain harmful content, such as violence and obscenity, on multiple platforms from March to November 2023.

Starting from this month, all online miniseries released or promoted by online platforms and mini-programs are required to hold an online drama publishing license or a filing number with their corresponding platform.

Facing the growing competition in the domestic market, many enterprises have turned their eyes to the overseas market.

The scales of the overseas and domestic markets were almost the same in 2022 and the overseas market is about to usher in new developments, according to Li Tao, general manager of Fung Culture.

At the end of 2023, Reel Short, a short-series application under the COL Group in China, was among the most downloaded entertainment applications on Apple's App Store in the United States. In February this year, another Chinese application TOPShort recorded more downloads than Netflix on Japan's App Store.

Bu Yanfang, a professor at the School of Economics and Management at the Communication University of China, says that Chinese online short videos or miniseries should grasp the advantages of scale, experience and innovation to produce better works and further promote Chinese culture in the international market.






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