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Here’s What Chinese Netizens Were Streaming This Summer

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Summer vacation is officially over, with a new semester just beginning in Chinese schools. Over the last few months, we’ve reported on some of the hit shows to come out via online platforms like iQIYI, Tencent Video and Youku, but of course there were far more variety shows, internet series and internet films than what we covered here on RADII.

According to a recent report from professional data analysis platform Gu Duo Media, original internet video content racked up hundreds of millions of views from Chinese netizens this summer — here’s a hint at what future trends may be in store.

Variety Shows

If you follow RADII, you’ll be familiar with some of Baidu-owned platform iQIYI’s music-themed variety shows, including the just-finished third season of Rap of China, and the new-for-2019 original series The Big Band, which brought long-running underground indie bands to the center of public attention.

But among the 27 variety shows that aired from May to August 2019, Youku’s second season of Street Dance of China led the pack. The show gathered almost all of the most famous dancers from star crews around China, receiving 1.3 million bullet comments and receiving an exceptional 9.7 out of 10 rating on film rating site Douban.

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Meanwhile, Tencent Video’s music talent show The Coming One Girls, which focuses on female contestants pursuing their music dreams, won nearly as much favor with audiences, proving the format isn’t purely the domain of iQIYI.

Besides music reality shows, six cultural talk shows also aired this summer, five of which were produced by Youku. Quite a few of the Alibaba-owned platform’s productions were highly rated on Douban. The fourth season of The Thousand and One Nights, a book-themed talk show hosted by Hong Kong-born intellectual Leung Man-Tao, and a new season of Table π, where former Phoenix Satellite TV host Dou Wentao discusses social issues and cultural trends with guests from across various industries, both performed well among viewers, scoring a 9.7/10 and 8.7/10 on Douban, respectively.

Web Series

Youku also earned an unparalleled success with The Longest Day in Chang’an which boosted paid membership subscription and daily active user numbers more than any other of the 52 internet series produced and released by all three of China’s major video streaming platforms (Tencent Video, iQIYI and Youku). The series’ official Weibo account is followed by more than 2 million netizens, and its leading actors were trending search items on search engine Baidu while the show was airing.

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While this historical suspense drama was the most popular series to air, Love Better Than Immortality, a time-travel romantic drama adapted from a novel published in 2008, was another dark horse hit for Youku.

Tencent Video and iQIYI competed head to head with original productions in a more traditional genre: xianxia (仙侠), a genre that combines fantasy, fairytales, superheroes and martial arts in an imaginary ancient world.

Tencent’s The Untamed, featuring the beloved stars Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, and iQIYI’s Love and Destiny, featuring Taiwanese actor Chang Chen (A Brighter Summer Day, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Go Master) and fashion icon Ni Ni (The Flowers of War, The Rise of Phoenixes) both started off with a low rating on Douban, but reached high numbers by the end of their respective runs thanks to delicate art design and quality storytelling.

Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo in The Untamed

Within the recently trendy theme of esports, Tencent’s more professionally-oriented The King’s Avatar and iQIYI’s more romantic Go Go Squid! both attracted traffic from gamers and fans of love stories. The former paved the way for a new type of drama combining lots of in-game scenes; the latter minted another superstar and “national boyfriend” in lead actor Li Xian.

Li Xian in Go Go Squid!

Original Films

Compared to last summer, there were fewer (170 in total), but better internet films released on the three platforms, as we previewed in June. iQIYI’s original, exclusively-released films outnumbered those put out on Tencent and Youku combined.

However, Youku edged ahead in this category as well. After co-producing and releasing last year’s most profitable internet film, Snake, Youku came out with two more online blockbusters this summer: Water Monster, which was the first production from Youku’s “Plan Jin Xiu,” and Mega Crocodile. It seems that biological disaster films are getting really popular among Youku’s users.

While we’d initially thought that Youku might have lagged behind its two major competitors, it now looks like they pulled off a big win for summer 2019. And we anticipate that iQIYI and Tencent will not let themselves fall further behind in the original content department. As viewers, we’re excited to see what comes next.

Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van