Chinese tech giant Tencent announced Thursday it was ending its content creator incentive plan called “Project Dawn” after prompting wide backlash from content creators.

Why it matters: The competition among tech giants for quality content is reaching a fever pitch in China, but creators are pushing back against what they see as attempts to devalue their work.

Details: Tencent’s open content platform said in a Thursday statement (in Chinese) that it has terminated its content creator incentive program “Project Dawn,” which aimed to lure original content creators with monetary rewards for their work. On top of that, the company apologized to creators that were affected by the program.

  • Tencent launched the project in July, pledging to give RMB 10 million ($1.5 million) in subsidies to empower and attract more video content creators to its platform. The project aimed at creators from various popular platforms such as Bilibili, Xiaohongshu, and video apps like Kuaishou, promising to help the creators promote their content across platforms and increase their revenue. 
  • Several creators on the Chinese video platform Bilibili began to voice their discontent (video, in Chinese) last week, claiming Tencent tricked them into joining the program, which failed to deliver its promises. 
  • The creators claimed that Tencent ran the program through a number of multi-channel networks (MCNs), which would take as much as 90% of the one-off incentive fee of RMB 200 promised to each creator by the platform.
  • Bilibili creators who gave their ID information to MCNs after joining the program found their videos, which had already been uploaded on Bilibili, were copied to the Tencent platform and labeled as exclusive content there. As a result, their accounts were subsequently blocked on other sites for alleged piracy. Tencent refuted these claims in its statement, saying that it has never labelled content exclusive, “nor has it tried to obstruct creators’ profile on other platforms.”
  • Tencent said content creators that want to leave their platform can cancel their account, an option that only became available on Nov. 9. Those who want to stay will now get the promised income from Tencent directly, instead of through MCNs, the company said.

Context: This is not the first time Tencent has faced a content creator backlash. The company’s online reading arm China Literature was subject to an author revolt due to what they saw as exploitative rules in 2020.

READ MORE: INSIGHTS | Who owns ‘internet literature’?

Update: The story has been updated with Tencent’s statement on exclusive content complaints.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.