China’s streaming sites turn to premium VOD to hold onto audiences’ interest amid COVID-19
Marching forward
Published: Jul 14, 2020 06:41 PM Updated: Jul 14, 2020 12:41 PM

Promotional material for Double World and (inset) A First Farewell Photos: Courtesy of iQIYI and Maoyan


Promotional material for Double World and (inset) A First Farewell Photos: Courtesy of iQIYI and Maoyan

Chinese audiences are still showing a high willingness and desire to head to cinemas even amid the COVID-19 epidemic, a new report released by Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan and streaming site iQIYI. 

China's film industry is experiencing its darkest moment since cinemas were forced to shut down amid the COVID-19 epidemic in late January. Going online and streaming has become a new trend in every area including films, with some movies abandoning their original release plans to debut on streaming sites. 

However, according to the report, the lack of original content stemming from the shutdown of the industry has caused troubles for streaming sites. 

"We are still in desperate need of new films, which is impossible for now," Song Jia, general manager of the iQIYI Film Center told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"There have been no new films screening in cinemas this year, so for us the supply almost equals zero. What we have are some 2019 ones and some before the Spring Festival."

The general public is anticipating a return to cinemas, as shown by a recent 34 percent increase in Maoyan's overall "Want to Watch" index. For instance, on July 1, the "Want to Watch" numbers for the film Detective Chinatown 3 reached 1.26 million users on Maoyan, while the numbers for the upcoming Legend of Deification has reached half a million. This is a strong signal demonstrating people's willingness to head to cinemas. On Monday night, Chinese movie A First Farewell announced that it will be released on the first day Chinese theaters reopen, a date that remains uncertain as the COVID-19 epidemic continues. 

This is not a single case. In fact, the entire film industry is moving forward and preparing for the recovery of the industry. 

Also on Monday, iQIYI announced its upcoming project Double World. An adaptation of the online game of the same name from Hong Kong director Teddy Chan will debut on iQIYI as a premium video-on-demand (VOD) title on July 24. 

"The producers choose to work with us to premiere it at a time when there is still no clear schedule for theaters to reopen. The movie itself has a strong connection with streaming sites as it is an adaptation of a popular online game that has a large group of online followers," Song said. 

"Additionally, the film has a lot of visual effects and CGI, which is fit to watch on giant screens at home. It also marks a new attempt to introduce the premium video-on-demand model, which is very mature in the West but still new to Chinese audiences." 

When asked about the future recovery of the industry, Song said the most important thing right now is to keep people's interest in film production no matter how long the epidemic lasts. 

"What all of us are doing is to keep audiences, who will watch movies either online or offline. As long as they stay with us, the only difference is where," she said.  

"Second, we must maintain the confidence of movie companies, producers and directors, who are the core group behind movies. Due to the epidemic, some companies and talents are leaving the industry. I still hope they can stay on and remain optimistic."