ByteDance is Winning the Spring Festival China Streaming Wars

With Moving the Theatrical Release of Lost in Russia from Cinemas to Across its Streaming App for the Chinese New Year Holiday, ByteDance Makes a Splash Over This Tragic Chinese Spring Festival

By Ryan Carroll, Managing Editor

January, 2020.

Since our last reporting that ByteDance, owner of the popular American teen app TikTok, purchased the streaming distribution rights to the latest Lost in series movie, Lost in Russia, to stream across all its major video apps Douyin, Huoshan, Jinrin Toutiao, and Xigua Video (Watermelon).

Lost in Russia has been viewed over 600M times in just 3 days, with a total number of 180M individual viewers from 73M households. Meaning that the movie held a high rating of popularity among its viewers for repeat viewership.

In Hubei Province alone (where the Wuhan is its Capital City and the epicenter of the coronavirus and 50M people are on lock down, across multiple cities) it was played 25M times alone.

Prompting ByteDance to up its game and adding 14 more popular past Spring Festival films such as last year’s hit Crazy Alien ($328MMUSD at the China Box-Office over the 2019 Chun jie Spring Festival), this is the very first time Crazy Alien has become available on a streaming platform. As it was only available via VOD – Video on Demand – meaning you rented the movie for streaming for a period of time, usually 24 hours.

Some of the other fourteen movies include Monster Hunt 2, Detective Chinatown and Stephen Chow’s Mermaid, once China’s most successful film.

These deals are said to only be for the Spring Festival time period and not long-term, but cinema managers and chains have already spoken out against them. Quoting that this will lead to a “Netflix-like” disruption to the China Box-Office, which I have talked about before many time that here in North America that Netflix has had limited impact (unlike LaserDisc which almost crippled the industry in the 80s and then again when it was reintroduce in the late-90s), but Streaming-in-China is a different story.

The Streaming Industry, especially with the impact that the coronavirus has on the Spring Festival Box-Office this year (let alone the potential it may on the Singapore Economy and potentially further out for the American Stock Market), the streaming industry of China will have greater implications and impact on China’s box-office, as it is not as mature as Hollywood’s, and a deal like ByteDance’s with Huanxi Media are significant.

ByteDance is making more moves across the board for its streaming video platform than just what we are seeing this Spring Festival. They are also integrating their popular Huoshan short-video app with Douyin to create Douyin-Huoshan, to compete with Tencent-backed Kuaishou.

Optimizing premium content creators with what will be dubbed as a “Ladder” to move their content from one app to the other. In what appears to be a move to basically unify Huoshan completely into Douyin, to eventually liquidate Huoshan all together.

ByteDance is looking to build out an entire Ecosystem much like Tencent has that will be built around its Streaming Video platforms, and part of that Ecosystem will integrate its newly formed mobile gaming division. As it has recently bought Mokun Digital Technology and Levelup.ai, a developer of AI tools for gaming, along with NetEase’s former game developer subsidiary PanguGame and poached an entire veteran staff of Perfect World. With a goal to build its game division up to a staff of 1,000.

But, one must remember that though ByteDance is the world’s most valuable “startup” (in the sense that people still call Ant Financial a “startup”) it is only valued at $75BnUSD, and to go up against Tencent the world’s largest gaming company that knocked Facebook out of Top Five most valued companies in the world. And was the first non-American company to be valued at half a trillion dollars, and still sits at near a $500BnUSD valuation. ByteDance has a way to go in building its Ecosystem.

ByteDance is making some serious Money Moves into the China Streaming Wars over the Spring Festival and it is garnishing eyeballs, but it still has a long ways to go. Acquiring popular movies is one thing, but getting people to be paying subscribers to your video streaming service takes original content and that takes; time, money, and a content team who knows what they are doing. This is a part of the business we have yet to see if ByteDance’s Xigua Video and other assets have what it takes to be a player among Tencent Video, iQiyi, Youku, Bilibili, and I will say MangoTV.

Stay Tuned China Watchers!

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About the Author

Born and raised in the Missouri-Ozarks Ryan studied Film Production, and East Asian Culture, at the University of Kansas where he was a UGRA recipient that led him on a seven-year long, Journey From the West, to China. Where he worked with Warner Brothers, the China Film Group Corp. and the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Before returning to the States, where he specializes in Chinese Anime & Comics, China’s Box-Office, and Chinese entertainment-tech industries. He has a dog in China, Abigail, and a dog in the Arkansas-Ozarks, King Blue, who help ease his anxiety of suffering from the “Two-Dimensional Complex” that is trying to understand the Culture Industry landscapes of the Middle Kingdom.