Major Chinese tech companies like Xiaomi and Baidu are increasing their offerings in fictional short video series, an area in which established short-video platforms Douyin and Kuaishou excel. These short dramas are typically low-budget, under 10 minutes per episode, made for verticle viewing and target mobile users. Many of these short video dramas are adapted from web fiction, some are original content. 

Local online media Tech Planet reported on Monday that ByteDance, Baidu, and Xiaomi have recently increased their offering in short video series and are looking to “deeply cultivate the online literature and short drama industries”.

Why it matters: The adaptation of web fiction and online literature into new “mini-dramas” offers Chinese internet companies a new model for monetization amid sluggish advertising growth – potentially attracting new users and increasing time spent on the app. Tencent, Kuaishou, and Alibaba are all considering expanding their presence in the sector according to the report.

Details: The report said that Baidu, Xiaomi, and ByteDance are keeping the production cycle for these short video series within 10 days, with production costs mostly within hundreds of thousands of yuan (under $1,400). 

  • The report said Xiaomi has recently launched an app called “Duohua short video (our translation)” allowing paid users to watch short video series, which are still mainly provided by third parties. The Chinese phone vendor acquired e-reader service provider Duokan Technology in 2012 and now offers third-party web novels through the app.
  • Baidu’s online free novel app Qimao also plans to start a short video business, and has been hiring related talents recently, the report said.
  • TikTok’s parent company ByteDance started its online novel business in 2015. Its free literature app Tomato Novel has reached 93.27 million monthly active users as of December 2021, and the Beijing-based firm also has at least eight paid novel apps. The company uses Douyin, which has more than 600 million active daily users, to distribute short video series.
  • Douyin also sees the online novel business as a new way to tap into more potential users, with TikTok’s sister platform testing a dedicated novel channel on the homepage of its tablet app this June, which allowed users to select and read e-books. 
  • Short-video platform Kuaishou also excels in short video series. There are more than 2,000 series with over 100 million views on the platform, with genre spanning from romance, country to animation.
  • Kuaishoul also launched its first novel app Kuaishou Free Novel this September.
  • Kuaishou and Douyin have already launched numerous short series, with the former stating in its creator meeting held in July that the number of daily users watching Kuaishou mini-series has surpassed 260 million, and half of these users watch more than 10 episodes on the app every day.
  • Chinese long-form video platforms, including Youku, iQiyi, and Tencent video, have also invested in short series productions and added a quick link to this content type on their apps’ home pages.

Context: China’s web literature market size has exceeded RMB 30 billion with 502 million users by the end of 2021, according to a report conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

  • Major internet companies recorded a slowdown in advertising growth amid sluggish macroeconomic environment, for example, Kuaishou posted a 6.2% growth in advertising revenue in the third quarter, compared to a 32.6%, 10.5%  growth year-over-year in the first and second quarter this year, respectively.

Cheyenne Dong

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, blockchain, and Web3. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]technode.com.