A Look at Content Creation in China


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Santa Monica, CA

Content creation has recently experienced an explosive development in China. With content no longer confined to traditional platforms such as TV, radio, and print, emerging content distribution channels are widely diverse with formats that include digital series, short videos, and live streams. Though we’re in the midst of an important era in content creation, challenges remain. Statistics released by Hylink Digital's film arm, Authrule Digital Media, provided some insight into the shifting patterns.

Promising Times for Content Creation

As the growth of the entertainment industry continues, advertisers’ increasing budgets for native ads, along with the emergence of diversified distribution channels and short video and live stream platforms, create more opportunities within digital media. These factors combined have made content creation more promising and lucrative than ever before.

The graphs above show the number of online variety shows in China increased from 46 in 2014 to 111 in 2016, where the number of online television shows grew from 205 in 2014 to 600 in 2016. Within just two years, the number of official Chinese WeChat accounts almost doubled in 2016, from an estimated 6M to 12M.

These statistics illustrate both the rapid growth of content creation and the overwhelming need for content, which is the motivating factor behind increased budgets in content marketing and the reason for the significant drop in traditional ad spend.

Content distribution platforms are also diversifying. Short videos on social and live stream videos are currently the most popular content platforms in China. Moreover, the media partnership environment has become more flexible, allowing content producers to create more quality content outside of television and film.

Challenges for Content Creation

In spite of the content volume and number of content creators active in the market, the overall net profits of the entertainment industry were lower in 2016. The aggregated net profits of the top 30 listed Chinese entertainment companies in 2016 were only 56% of those in 2015.

For instance, there were over 100 Chinese online variety shows in 2016. However, very few offered quality or buzz-worthy content. The number of online variety shows continued to rise at a fast pace for five months, yet show views continued to drop after reaching a peak in November.

The overflow of content can be especially distracting to consumers, leading to higher audience standards when choosing and evaluating content.

Nowadays, entertainment shows in China have seen production costs skyrocket due to the astronomical costs for celebrities. In 2016, celebrities accounted for nearly 70% of total production costs. Celebrity appearances are critical to ensure high TV ratings and views. Nevertheless, the Chinese government is enforcing stricter regulations on online content to ensure quality content is circulated.

The saturation can also be a huge challenge for advertisers. Fresh content on existing platforms doesn’t necessarily guarantee customer satisfaction. Even with a substantial budget, Chinese advertisers find content that perfectly resonates with their clients’ brands sometimes difficult.

Trends of Content Creation

·       Engaging audiences is the most important factor for content creators, as there is a wide variety of online content available to consumers.

·       Product placement used to be the most popular route for advertisers to integrate their brands within content. Now, more and more advertisers are trying to tie their products/brands into the storyline to engage consumers.

·       There is greater diversity in how content creators monetize content. Popular content creators are building entire business chains around the content they create. 

Content Examples in China

·       DSMovie - A popular Wechat account that provides entertaining movie reviews. The account launched its own short video program and will likely make its own films (Avg. 100k Wechat article views).

·       Uncle Tongdao - A well-known Wechat and Weibo account that talks about astrology, zodiac signs and related anecdotes. It opened its own flagship store on Tmall.com selling derivative merchandise with star sign symbols (Weibo follower number: 11M).

·       Wangnima - A prominent Wechat and Weibo account originating from a Chinese internet talk show, covering news, literature, history, psychology, geography, politics, chemistry, biology and more. It opened its own flagship store on Tmall.com selling derivative merchandise related to the show (Weibo Follower number: 13M). 

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