E-releases of films change eyeball game
The cast of Lost in Russia, which was released on a streaming platform earlier this year, attend a promotional event in Beijing in December. [Photo/China Daily]
Video-streaming services unspool profits as picture turns hazy for virus-hit cinemas
China's cinemas may be fearing bankruptcy due to protracted COVID-19-related lockdown restrictions, but businesses offering online entertainment are upbeat about the future.
Nearly 10 new films that were originally scheduled for release at cinemas, had reached audiences for free using online channels as of June 23. The first in the series is Lost in Russia on ByteDance's platforms like Toutiao and TikTok.
The new films' online releases have provoked uproar in China's film industry. Some fear massive loss of ticket sales revenue. Even though film production companies reportedly said online releases are not going to generate adequate profits, they still shifted to online solutions, in case waiting for theatrical release may cause more loss given the current situation.
For instance, Lost in Russia was reportedly under a bet-on agreement with HG Entertainment to receive over 2.4 billion yuan ($340 million) in box-office receipts in exchange for free distribution and a 600 million yuan payment. Given the coronavirus outbreak, the ambitious goal seemed less unlikely. On the other side, ByteDance's offer of 630 million yuan without further obligations was certainly more attractive, market insiders said.
Enter the Fat Dragon team told media that its switch to online release was to pre-empt pirated versions in China, as the film has been released in many countries, including Malaysia and Singapore.
With more films releasing online, traffic to video-streaming platforms has soared of late.
Take Lost in Russia. Within three days of the film's e-release, online views surpassed 600 million. Video-streaming apps of ByteDance like JinriToutiao and Xigua saw increasing downloads. Xigua even topped the list of free downloads on App Store, according to a report by news website 36kr.com.
According to a report from film trade tracker Endata, video-streaming platforms saw surging number of daily active users and total visits in the first quarter of this year, spurred by an increasing need for entertainment among audiences quarantined at home.