On­line video chan­nels pro­duce vir­tual fame

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - ByWANG KAIHAO wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

For­mer busi­ness jour­nal­ist Zeng Hang says it feels sur­real when peo­ple call him an in­ter­net celebrity. But that’s ex­actly what he is. The 30-year-old’s Crazy War­fare Show, an on­line pro­gram in­tro­duc­ing mil­i­tary knowl­edge us­ing game­like com­puter an­i­ma­tion, has at­tracted more than 700,000 sub­scribers on Youku.com, China’s an­swer to YouTube.

“When I started the busi­ness, I only thought about how play­ing games could be fun and­make a mil­i­tary-themed show unique,” says Zeng.

“What I have yet to learn is how to man­age so many fans.”

The show some­times cre­ated by view­ers.

But most con­tent comes from a group of pro­gram pro­duc­ers.

“It all started with one per­son,” says Zeng.

“But it can’t be a one-man show any­more.”

Crazy War­fare Show started in 2012 as an in­di­vid­ual chan­nel with con­tent up­loaded by a man us­ing the on­line alias “262”. Zeng joined in 2015 to steer the chan­nel in a new di­rec­tion.

“In­di­vid­ual chan­nels at­trac­tive,” he ex­plains.

“But it’s dif­fi­cult to make sure ev­ery episode re­tains equally high qual­ity and to reg­u­larly and fre­quently re­new­con­tent.”

The show snagged uses can over clips be 100 mil­lion hits on Youku last year.

It has be­come a way to gen­er­ate prof­its by in­cor­po­rat­ing pro­mo­tion for com­puter games.

The web­site has over 30 mil­lion in­di­vid­ual chan­nels — 50 per­cent more than in Au­gust 2015 — Gu Sibin, chief prod­uct of­fi­cer of Heyi Group, which runs Youku, said ear­lier this month.

Some have proved to be mir­a­cles by com­bin­ing en­ter­tain­ment and busi­ness.

For ex­am­ple, Luo Zhenyu, a read­ing pro­gram host, sold 1.2 mil­lion yuan ($179,000) worth of books within six hours through his chan­nel.

Pop singer-turned-en­trepreneur Lin Yilun re­cently nabbed an 83 mil­lion yuan in­vest­ment in his chili sauce startup af­ter his cui­sine chan­nel be­came pop­u­lar.

Rage Comic — a series of comics re­leased on­line de­pict­ing em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments in daily life — has mor­phed from an in­di­vid­ual stu­dio into a group with over 300 em­ploy­ees run­ning var­i­ous talk-show chan­nels.

Sales of de­riv­a­tive mer­chan­dise reached “tens of mil­lions yuan in 2015”, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Wang Qufu says.

“You have to be con­tin­u­ously cre­ative or die,” saysWang.

“Our chan­nels don’t have mo­nop­o­lies like those on tra­di­tional TV. We can only fo­cus on how to make each episode great and em­brace new busi­ness lines.”

Youku has in­vested 3 bil­lion yuan since Au­gust 2015 to nur­ture in­di­vid­ual chan­nels.

“No other me­dia has shown such power to fa­cil­i­tate in­ter­ac­tions be­tween fans and pro­gram hosts,” Gu says.

“It’s an easy assem­bly line of con­tent, distri­bu­tion and prof­its.” But there are chal­lenges. Zeng says it’s dif­fi­cult to sus­tain the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter­is­tics of chan­nels pre­vi­ously run by in­di­vid­u­als.

“The chan­nels be­came pop­u­lar be­cause of their unique­ness but in­evitably more main­stream as more peo­ple get in­volved. Pro­duc­tion may be more pro­fes­sional. But cer­tain styles must be pre­served.”

For ex­am­ple, 262’s Man­darin is poor. Zeng re­placed his dub­bing with a TV an­chor’s but ne­ti­zens weren’t hav­ing it. Ul­ti­mately, 262 re­turned.

Ma Rui, who runs a celebrity-gos­sip chan­nel, ex­presses con­cerns about dis­torted values.

About 80 per­cent of the con­tent comes from fans, the 29-year-old ex­plains.

“Our shows give the ap­pear­ance of leisure and en­ter­tain­ment but are rigidly su­per­vised by our group,” saysMa.

“That’s to en­sure so­cial values are re­spected and the con­tent is pos­i­tive. What­ever the for­mat, os­ten­ta­tious prod­ucts will per­ish if they’re only to grab at­ten­tion. You have to solve ba­sic prob­lems be­fore your chan­nel be­comes pop­u­lar.”

Youku’s founder Vic­tor Koo says the rise of in­di­vid­ual chan­nels has just be­gun and will lead to a new epoch.

“On­line videos aren’t uni­di­rec­tional me­dia but, rather, au­di­en­cein­ter­ac­tion plat­forms,” says Koo.

“Live on­line videos are hot, but a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple are com­plain­ing their con­tent lacks di­ver­sity. Ho­mo­gene­ity re­stricts live on­line videos’ busi­ness-model de­vel­op­ment. I’m afraid the fad won’t last. So the in­dus­try has to up­grade. Chan­nels need to make break­throughs in con­tent di­ver­sity.” The mar­ket senses the po­ten­tial. About 67 per­cent of in­vest­ment in China’s on­line in­dus­tries in the first half of the year went to on­line videos, China Busi­ness Net­work re­ports. Only one in 10 view­ers “do noth­ing af­ter watch­ing the pro­gram”.

“The in­dus­try is no longer a jun­gle where only the strong­est sur­vive,” says Koo.

“I pre­fer to call it an ocean, where a shoal of fish can live to­gether, and pros­per­ity can be achieved.”

On­line videos aren’t uni­di­rec­tional me­dia but, rather, au­di­en­cein­ter­ac­tion plat­forms.”

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Clock­wise from top: CrazyWar­fareShow is an on­line pro­gram in­tro­duc­ing mil­i­tary knowl­edge. Zeng Hang, the pro­ducer of the CrazyWar­fareShow. Cast mem­bers of RageComic at­tend a Bei­jing pro­mo­tional event. Vic­tor Koo, Youku’s founder.

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