On­line video dra­mas out to find their niche

Com­pe­ti­tion among on­line video pro­duc­ers is no longer about copy­rights of tra­di­tional TV se­ries, but about the con­tent and qual­ity of their own prod­ucts.

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

Once shot for com­mer­cial pro­mo­tions and cou­pled with cheesy jokes, Chi­nese on­line video dra­mas now ap­pear to be flour­ish­ing thanks to China’s boom­ing “In­ter­net Plus” econ­omy. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port on video se­ries made by video web­sites such as Youku Tu­dou and iQiyi, an es­ti­mated 2,000 episodes will be pro­duced by the end of this year, tak­ing the 2016 to­tal to more than 5,000, al­most 250 times the fig­ure in 2009.

Like other in­ter­net-based cul­tural prod­ucts, on­line video dra­mas, de­spite bor­row­ing heav­ily from tra­di­tional TV se­ries— from nar­ra­tives to pro­mo­tional tac­tics — have also made no­table progress in terms of in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity. In fact, many of them have man­aged to get rid of such depen­dence and can co-ex­ist with the dra­mas broad­cast by TV chan­nels.

The themes of on­line video dra­mas, for one, cater to a di­verse au­di­ences, as un­like the TV au­di­ence, on­line video view­ers— based on their age, ed­u­ca­tion level and ap­pre­ci­a­tion ap­ti­tude— have vastly dif­fer­ent pref­er­ences.

Video sites have an in­cli­na­tion to make dra­mas that are ei­ther sen­sa­tional— with solv­ing of crimes in­volved— or about ado­les­cent love, a fa­vorite with many young­sters. That, to some ex­tent, has led to vul­gar, crude pla­gia­rism, and even ob­scure at­tempts to over­step the bound­aries of film and TV se­ries man­age­ment. But the poorly pro­duced shows now face stricter scru­tiny and have lit­tle chance of reach­ing view­ers.

On plat­forms, once co-pro­duced by on­line video com­pa­nies and TV sta­tions to supplement the lat­ter, on­line video se­ries are get­ting rid of their depen­dence on tra­di­tional me­dia ve­hi­cles. Many of them are now ex­clu­sive to on­line users and avail­able only on on­line stream­ing sites, with off­line pro­duc­ers and broad­cast­ers play­ing a lim­ited role in the pro­duc­tions.

The change is in line with the rise of the in­ter­net and the grow­ing in­de­pen­dence of on­line video en­ter­prises. The ever-chang­ing ap­petite of ne­ti­zens for en­ter­tain­ment also serves as the key gauge for on­line video pro­duc­ers.

Another noteworthy change is the way video sites make money. Tra­di­tion­ally, ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue made up most of their earn­ings. But now they are ask­ing view­ers to pay mem­ber­ship fees to en­joy the lux­ury of watch­ing cer­tain on­line video dra­mas, and an in­creas­ing num­ber of view­ers are will­ing to do so. That would ef­fec­tively in­cen­tivize video sites to pro­vide bet­ter, more tai­lored prod­ucts to their paid users.

So now, com­pe­ti­tion among on­line video pro­duc­ers is no longer about copy­rights of tra­di­tional TV se­ries, but about the con­tent and qual­ity of their own prod­ucts. More­over, com­pared with their tra­di­tional TV­dra­mas, whose to­tal num­ber reached 16,540 episodes last year, the in­de­pen­dently made on­line video dra­mas have great po­ten­tial and mar­ket value that re­main un­tapped.

Given the re­quired pol­icy sup­port, man­age­ment and tele­vi­sion tal­ents, the in­dus­try is ex­pected to pros­per even with­out repli­cat­ing the suc­cess of tra­di­tional TV se­ries or pur­su­ing sen­sa­tion­al­ism. The au­thor is a lec­turer at the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Univer­sity of China.

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