How to view the rise of Chinese short video platform as the top performer on the US iOS entertainment charts, surpassing TikTok, and being accused of buying ratings and inflating views overseas?

Dear Moon Goddess, humbly I request that you grant me a strong and powerful werewolf when I turn 18 This is a line from the first episode of the overseas hit drama series Fated to My Forbidden Alpha The female protagonist is a servant, much like Cinderella, in need of a werewolf to save her from her hardships This resembles the wholesome plotline of domestic mini-dramas, which has been seen recently on the popular short-form video platform ReelShort Its parent company, Chinese Online, has become a star company in the secondary market due to this product, with its stock price skyrocketing From October 24th to November 14th, its stock price increased from 1201 yuan/share to 303 yuan/share, a staggering 15229% increase in just 16 trading days On November 20th, the stock price of Chinese Online reached as high as 3048 yuan/share, setting a new 60-day record Along with the rise in stock price, the download numbers of ReelShort have also increased According to data from Qimai, on November 12th and 13th, ReelShort climbed to second place on the free download chart and first place on the entertainment chart in the US App Store, attracting a lot of attention Its not just overseas, the domestic market has also been swept up in the wave of short-form dramas An app called Hippo Theater briefly rose to the top of the domestic download chart This app was developed in cooperation with China Broadcasting and Dianzhong Technology, with Tianwei Vision holding a 2617% stake in China Broadcasting It seems that overnight, short-form drama concept stocks have become the new darlings of the domestic capital market On November 21st, stock prices continued to rise, with Haikan Holdings increasing by the daily limit of 20cm, Tianwei Vision and Yingli Media reached their upward limit earlier, while Tangde Film and Television, Chinese Online, and Baina Qiancheng all rose by more than 5% However, behind the soaring stock prices, the true state of the short-form drama industry is not as worthy of celebration as it appears On one hand, there is increasing regulatory scrutiny and industry homogenization in the domestic market, and the short-form drama industry itself is still in the early stages of unregulated growth On the other hand, the overseas short-form drama market also has significant differences compared to the domestic market Duomu Research has found that the existing leading players in the industry are mostly platforms with previous experience in adapting online literature for overseas markets It is only through years of user accumulation, data accumulation, and advertising experience that they can adopt a go big or go home strategy in the early stages of expanding into overseas markets Without such a foundation, blindly entering the market at this time would incur considerable trial and error costs and have much higher entry barriers compared to domestic mini-dramas Will the million-dollar-a-day short-form dramas suddenly collectively set sail overseas?

Behind the Scenes: Chinese Company’s Success in Overseas Market

I didn’t expect foreigners to also fall for the hook. I briefly watched a few of them and summarized the plot:

  1. How does a girl counterattack? The aristocratic marriage series.

  2. How do girls discuss seducing the boss? The domineering CEO series.

  3. How to fall in love with a vampire? The werewolf vampire series.

  4. Both the male and female leads are highly attractive, with casual acting and more explicit content.

  5. Each episode is less than 2 minutes long, with major plot twists and frequent cliffhangers. Generally, when it comes to the dating stage, there will be advertisements or a payment requirement.

Many people suspect that this app has artificially boosted its popularity and is a false prosperity. So how did they manage to break into the top ten?

Behind them is a Chinese company called Maple Leaf Interactive, which is invested in by Chinese Online.

ReelShort has been growing steadily since its overseas launch in August 22. After June 23, they increased their investment and operational efforts.

According to Data AI, in September 23, this product generated a monthly revenue of $4.827 million on iOS and Google Play.

The company’s previous product was a game called Chapters, which targeted European and American female players. It is an interactive reading game where players experience different stories through dialogue. The choices made by players lead to different storylines and endings, allowing each player to experience unique plotlines.

Currently, this company has three impressive points, which may also be worth learning for Chinese internet companies going global:

  1. They understand female consumers, especially European and American women. It is a proven fact that it is relatively easy to make money from women, whether they are foreign or domestic. Mango TV is a domestic company that profits from female-oriented content.

  2. They have mature content support. Chinese Online has a large amount of popular literature content, with many storylines highly similar to those in China. They simply use foreign faces to act them out.

  3. They are skilled at acquiring users. They have made effective use of resources from TikTok. During the operation of Chapters, they accumulated a large number of fans and attracted a significant amount of traffic through the platform.

It’s true that when it comes to buying users, there are very few Chinese internet companies that don’t engage in this practice.

By buying users, they can enter the top ten in a domestic app distribution market, sign a yearly contract, and continue to burn money.

However, it is highly unrealistic to enter the top ten in the US Apple Store solely through buying users.

The only thing that needs evaluation is the sustainability of this top ten position.

Currently, there seem to be considerable difficulties, which may have two influencing factors:

  1. The sustainability of traffic from TikTok. ByteDance’s style is to do everything by themselves.

  2. The competition is closely watching, and the pressure from Yuewen Group is significant. In theory, they have the most intellectual property and a strong internet gene. Tencent needs to reflect on why this app did not appear in Yuewen Group, just like how their game was suppressed by Genshin Impact and their popular intellectual properties are also facing friction from others.

Some comments claim that this is another cultural export?

From my overall experience, this has nothing to do with Chinese culture at all. It is purely a money-making project.

I believe that it is the combination of “understanding human nature,” “understanding of overseas export methods,” and “mature internet operation models in China” that contribute to the success of this project.

The seed grows within the wall and becomes fragrant beyond it.

The Buying Strategy of “ReelShort”

Short drama market has developed faster than expected this year. In the domestic market, “Help! I’m Surrounded by Beauties” has become a dark horse in the form of “short drama + game”. In the overseas market, with the emergence of multiple hit short dramas, the topic of “short dramas going global” has been gaining popularity, reminiscent of the boom of “online literature going global” in 2021.

As a professional global mobile marketing strategy platform, AppGrowing has witnessed the wave of online literature going global. Recently, we have also observed a strong push from a group of short drama apps. According to AppGrowing International Edition data, “ReelShort” under Chinese Online has topped the US iOS entertainment free chart recently, with downloads exceeding that of “TikTok” at one point.

“ReelShort” was launched in the overseas market as early as August 2022, but it didn’t start massive advertising until July this year. At the same time, the app began to enter the Top 100 of the US iOS best-seller chart and continued to rise in rankings. After months of buying traffic operations, “ReelShort” has become the leading product in the current short drama overseas market. This point has also been validated by the reaction of the capital market. Since November, Chinese Online’s stock price has continued to rise, even doubling.

AppGrowing has observed that currently, buying traffic is still the main marketing method for short drama apps. With the increasing number of entrants, the traffic competition in this track has become intense. Today, let’s take a look at the advertising strategies and approaches of such products using the successful market leader, “ReelShort.”

The Advertising Strategy of “ReelShort”

According to AppGrowing International Edition data monitoring, “ReelShort” started massive buying of traffic in July, with a daily average of over 400 placements on both ends. After October, the number of daily placements increased even more, reaching over 1000 at one point.

Currently, “ReelShort” mainly targets the European and American markets, which is also evident in the distribution of advertising placements. The top 5 advertising markets are the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, with the highest proportion in the United States. The media channels used for advertising are primarily Meta platforms, with Facebook, the Meta Audience Network, and Instagram accounting for more than 20% of the placements.

For short drama apps, the short drama content on their own platforms is a natural library of advertising materials, so video materials have become mainstream. According to AppGrowing International Edition monitoring, “ReelShort” mainly uses video materials, with vertical videos accounting for over 80%. Furthermore, through the analysis of advertising audience demographics, we can see that the materials are mainly targeted at female audiences, with the age group concentrated between 25 and 44.

In terms of material creativity, “ReelShort” mainly uses sliced clips from popular short dramas for material output. According to AppGrowing International Edition data, the most exposed material in the advertisements placed by “ReelShort” in the past 180 days is the first episode clip of “The Double Life of My Billionaire Husband,” with a video duration of over 4 minutes.

Specifically, the video starts with a scene of “slapstick sales and kneeling to wear shoes” to quickly create a pleasant feeling and retain users' attention.

Then it continues with the plot of “selling love tokens” to depict the conflict between the male and female protagonists. Finally, through their dialogue, it introduces the background of “contract marriage” to leave a cliffhanger and stimulate users to download the app to watch the follow-up plot.

The second most exposed material is a wonderful scene clip from another hit short drama on the platform, “Fated to My Forbidden Alpha.” The video is only 30 seconds long but quickly captures the audience’s attention with scenes of werewolf transformation, hero saving the beauty, love at first sight, and other popular elements, accompanied by popular background music, targeting the audience interested in werewolf-themed content.

In general, the advertising material creativity of short drama apps heavily relies on the platform’s content. They quickly capture users' attention with high-density dramatic plot segments and highlight corresponding thematic elements based on the preferences of their target market. Since “ReelShort” mainly targets the European and American markets, the advertising materials also focus on presenting elements such as werewolves, vampires, ABO dynamics, and family feuds, aiming for high visual impact.

As for the specific creative methods used in the materials, “ReelShort” (or the current leading short drama apps) have developed some common techniques, mainly by creating a sense of excitement through “strong conflicts and unexpected reversals.” The first 3 seconds of the video present a strong conflict plot to grab the user’s attention, such as female lead seeking revenge, exposing scumbags, hero saving the beauty, etc. Additionally, the video ends with a cliffhanger, introducing the app name and download button, stimulating users to download the app to watch the follow-up plot.

It is worth noting that as the competition in the short drama overseas market becomes more intense, in order to deepen users' impression of the brand and protect the copyright of the materials (such as background music), top apps like “ReelShort” will watermark the materials and display their icons in the upper right corner of the screen.

The current stage is perhaps the best time for “short dramas going global.”

According to AppGrowing International Edition data, the advertising placements of short drama-related entertainment apps have shown a significant increase in the second half of this year. In addition to “ReelShort,” other short drama apps like Changdu Technology’s “MoboReels,” Xin Yue Era’s “GoodShort,” Anyue Technology’s “FlexTV,” and Jiuzhou Culture’s “99TV” are also increasing their buying of traffic. Short video platforms like TikTok and Kwai are also accelerating the incubation of related content. Undoubtedly, “short dramas” have become a popular track for overseas application expansion in 2023.

At this stage, the audience for short dramas overlaps with the audience for online literature to a great extent. Many popular short dramas are adapted from online literature, so online literature providers have a significant content advantage when making short dramas. Looking at the top products in the current short drama overseas market, many are backed by well-known online literature providers, such as Chinese Online and Changdu Information.

In terms of the development of the overall short drama market at home and abroad, the current stage may be the best time for “short dramas going global.” The domestic short drama market started to rise in 2020, and now three years have passed. The market development has entered a reshuffling phase. Combined with compliance issues, it is very difficult for new players to get a share.

On the other hand, in the overseas market, the first wave of “online literature going global” has laid the foundation of user education. Overseas users are already familiar with Chinese online literature content. Therefore, the user acceptance threshold for short dramas derived from online literature content is not as high as imagined. For online literature providers who are already familiar with the reading preferences of overseas users, it is not difficult to accurately target user demands and create localized short dramas.

Furthermore, compared to the domestic short drama market, there is more room for content selection when doing short dramas overseas. In terms of genres alone, users in Europe and America prefer themes like werewolves, vampires, ABO dynamics, etc. Users in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan have similar preferences to mainland users, favoring sweet love and heartbreaking romance. Japanese users like plots related to “housewives seeking revenge/fighting back”… Whether it is digging deep into a single market or creating content that can cater to a global audience, it can support overseas providers in making a mark. Meanwhile, overseas platforms have higher content freedom, and there is a certain market space for content related to LGBT themes, for example.

Of course, at this stage, short dramas going global also face some challenges. Apart from the actor and filming aspects of producing short drama content, overseas providers also need to pay attention to copyright issues regarding the use of materials (such as background music). Also, the buying traffic strategy is significantly different from that in the domestic market. These are issues that short drama overseas providers urgently need to address.

Nevertheless, “short dramas” have undoubtedly become the hottest trend for going global this year. AppGrowing will continue to focus on the short drama overseas market and bring more information and advertising strategies. If you want to learn more about the functions, you can log in to AppGrowing International Edition to explore it. New users can register to get a VIP trial opportunity! You are also welcome to follow our official account “AppGrowing出海观察” (AppGrowing Overseas Insights).

I hope this answer can be helpful to you!

Short dramas: a new trend in the video industry.

Seeing this news reminds me of a few old sayings: “The river flows east for thirty years, and the river flows west for thirty years. Talented individuals emerge one after another, leading the trend for hundreds of years.” After the explosion of short videos, now short dramas are surging, instead of the previously imagined metaverse or large models.

As ByteDance’s flagship product in overseas markets, TikTok has performed quite well this year, with ByteDance’s revenue reaching a staggering $54 billion in the first half of the year. Faced with such formidable competition, if short dramas want to attract user attention and gain momentum, the simplest way is to spend money to acquire users. As they say, “Money makes the mare go.” First attract users, and then we can talk about various operational recommendations. None of those matter when it comes to money.

Short videos have been popular since the launch of Douyin in 2018, and it has been almost 6 years now. The increasing number of homogeneous short videos is making users feel exhausted. At this time, the emergence of short dramas can meet the demand of users. After all, compared to short videos, short dramas require more elements such as concept, design, and aesthetics. They are not as simple as just using a mobile phone. They have higher requirements.

Compared to long dramas, the production cost of short dramas is lower, and they do not require much capital investment. They can be quickly launched into the market for trial and error and iteration. Therefore, they are currently favored by capital. This also indicates that although short videos appear to have high daily active users and usage time, their moats are not as deep as imagined. People’s attention and time are easily drawn to new things. Internet companies like ByteDance still need to constantly innovate and find new growth points in order to achieve sustained high-quality growth and continuously increase their valuation and market value.

Actually, this kind of drama is nothing more than a disguise of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, in the form of short web dramas.

Like most Westerners and Chinese audience, they themselves are not interested in this kind of content that seems fun but doesn’t require much brainpower.

To put it simply, cultural output should either be mystical, like the output of charlatans, or cool, like kung fu or Japanese animation. Otherwise, it should be tacky or outright vulgar.

Expecting to export classical philosophy, which is profound and incomprehensible, to ordinary people abroad is just ridiculous.

I think this is an age where popularity is king. It doesn’t matter what the content is, as long as it generates more buzz, then it definitely has vitality.

As for whether the content is good or not, that is not important.

The Importance of Buying Traffic for Both Content Producers and Platform Providers.

The production spent 500,000 RMB on shooting the short drama, 5 million RMB on purchasing traffic, and made a profit of 20 million RMB.

If the production team is willing to invest in purchasing traffic, then naturally the platform will also have to spend money on purchasing traffic.

I also downloaded a reelshort and took a look. The themes of the short dramas are relatively simple and rough, which is nothing new for Chinese netizens. There are probably several categories as follows:

  1. Female perspective, the protagonist marrying into a wealthy family or encountering a handsome and rich man.

  2. Female perspective, seeking revenge on rivals or dealing with old enemies or classmates.

  3. Workplace perspective, office politics, how to become a leader or get involved with a domineering CEO.

  4. Fantasy and historical dramas.

  5. Adaptations of classic works.

As you can see, there are more works from a female perspective, as the main audience for binge-watching dramas are also predominantly women.

The duration of each episode is only 2-5 minutes, with a fast pace, making it enjoyable to follow.

The actors should mostly be professionals or semi-professionals with a certain level of acting skills. They should have good looks, at least enough to attract you to click on the cover.

On the other hand, there is a wide variety of directing and filming styles, ranging from relatively high-quality to rather confusing. This mainly depends on the level of the director’s team, as nowadays it is much rarer to find a highly skilled director compared to actors.

Most of the post-production work is not overly elaborate, as short dramas mainly focus on being quick and easy to consume. Lengthening the production period in post-production would also be expensive. Audiences watching short dramas are not particularly interested in special effects or post-production. If done well, it might even create a sense of distance, causing the viewers to lose interest.

Overall, reelshort is a successful case of “short videos/short dramas + female-oriented economy + internet thinking” in the foreign market.

It’s hard to say whether reelshort’s top ranking on the iOS entertainment chart is artificially manipulated, but judging from the number of dramas and their production quality, there should be a considerable number of viewers. After all, producing these dramas also requires a certain amount of investment, and investors won’t work for free.

The Rise of Short Drama Market: China Takes the Lead

The short play market, known for its brevity and agility, has emerged as a rising force in the global market for short plays. China, in particular, is the largest supplier in this market, and the relevant listed companies have performed exceptionally well despite the recent downturn in the capital market. As the industry flourishes, not only will there be a dominant effect, but there will also be an increasing number of participants.

Taking the leading short play company, Chinese Online, as an example, the company stated:

Starting in 2020, the company has been exploring the market for medium-length and short plays. The company has established framework collaborations with multiple platforms to promote the production of television dramas, mini-program short plays, interactive plays, and other types of products. In 2021, these initiatives quickly materialized, and the revenue from mini-program short plays (paid video dramas) has exceeded 300 million yuan in 2022. [1]

Looking at the business model of the short play market, it starts with the creation of original scripts, novels, comics, game IPs, etc. After the production of short plays, copyright holders and distributors release them, and various profit models are employed for charging fees. Within a short period of time, a relatively mature business model is formed.

Furthermore, the prominent characteristic of the short play industry is its short investment cycle, high capital utilization rate, and high capital turnover efficiency. Therefore, it undergoes a rapid explosion within a short period of time. For short play suppliers, low costs, high investment, and active cultivation of “blockbuster IPs” are the key to success within a short time frame.

In terms of market development trends, the global short play market is currently in a growth and breakout phase. Leading companies with a first-mover advantage may not necessarily have sufficient moats, and it will take some time for the market competition landscape to stabilize. Afterward, as the industry becomes more competitive, the battle for hit IPs, as well as user-side and advertiser-side resources, will intensify, and the industry will enter a survival-of-the-fittest stage.

Currently, the domestic market has already started to regulate and clean up the rights and licenses for short plays, and some companies have made decisive choices to expand overseas, resulting in a trend of clustering.

The constant emergence of new formats in the new era is one of the important signs of progress. Short plays, which originated from self-media and short videos, are yet another testament to this in 2023.

Buying rankings is not limited to foreign countries.

Number of contents: 10. Popularity: 940,000. Ranked within top 15 on the hot list.

It seems that buying rankings is not only happening abroad, but also in China.

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Chinese online stocks have tripled.

Key Point: Whether it’s buying popularity or organic traffic, Chinese online platforms are truly booming. As a result, their stock prices have more than tripled. Recent reports reveal that Chinese short video app Reelshort’s ranking has surpassed TikTok and its market value has exceeded that of Netflix. How should we analyze this situation?