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Short-video content inches into pay mode

By FAN FEIFEI | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-21 09:12

The ByteDance logo is seen in Shanghai on Jan 7, 2023. [Photo/VCG]

Zhang Jiayi, a 28-year-old working at a fashion magazine in Beijing, loves to upload original videos that portray a slice of her everyday life and also watch funny clips posted by others on video-sharing platforms.

"My free time tends to be fragmented and short, so browsing short videos is the perfect fit when I take the metro," Zhang, who recently discovered that she had to pay a certain fee to watch some short videos, said.

"I am not sure whether I will pay for such videos. It depends on the topic and quality of content, and if I am really very interested in the content, I might spend money on it."

Chinese video-sharing platform Douyin, owned by tech heavyweight ByteDance, has started testing a pay-to-watch feature where users must pay to unlock full content for some videos on the platform. This is part of the company's effort to explore new revenue streams and diversify its monetization avenues.

Content creators, who own at least 100,000 followers and have completed real-name authentication of their accounts with no violation records for 90 days, have been allowed to provide paid videos for users, according to Douyin.

Viewers can access a preview of the paid content before making the payment and watch it repeatedly within seven days of purchase. To protect paying users, creators cannot delete the paid content, while Douyin will charge some fees as commission.

Douyin said the content creators will decide whether or not to activate the paid feature for their videos, and that the platform will not intervene.

Douyin has already introduced a feature where users are charged a fee to watch mini dramas on the platform.

Users can choose to purchase each episode or the entire mini drama. Once bought, the videos can be watched repeatedly without any time limit.

Ma Shicong, an analyst with Beijing-based internet consultancy Analysys, said, "The launch of paid short videos will bring stable revenue sources for content creators, stimulate them to produce high-quality content, and improve the content ecosystem for short video platforms."

However, it will take some time to cultivate the paying habit of users as, currently, most prefer to watch short videos free of charge, Ma said.

Greater effort is required to enhance the quality of content and explore diversified monetization models, including advertisements and livestreaming e-commerce, Ma added.

The competition in the short video industry will be more intense in future, and users of long video platforms such as Tencent Video and iQiyi will be lured away.

Wang Zihan, an engineer at a technology company in Beijing, said he cannot accept the pay-to-view feature, as the quality of short video content varies and some are even intercut with advertising, which leads to a poor viewing experience.

The number of Chinese short video users reached 1.01 billion in 2022, up 8.3 percent year-on-year, according to a report released by the China Internet Network Information Center.

Zhang Yi, CEO and principal analyst of consultancy iiMedia Research, said short video platforms are stepping up efforts to explore multiple monetization methods, and improve the quality and quantity of original content.

Whether such an attempt will work or not depends on users' acceptance of paid short videos, and whether the creator and platform can provide attractive and high-quality content continuously, Zhang said.

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