China's Streamers Experienced Traffic Boom Amid Virus Crisis

Huanxi Media
'Lost in Russia'

Online video services released 26 movies during the week after China's cinemas closed, and average viewing numbers doubled compared to the year-ago period.

China's television networks and streaming platforms benefited from an explosion of viewers after the world's most populous nation began practicing social distancing in late January to contain the new coronavirus, says a new report published Thursday by Beijing-based ticketing company Maoyan.

The surging television and streaming consumption came amid reduced filmgoing, according to Maoyan. In 2019, the Lunar New Year Holiday, which typically falls in late January and early February, contributed 14 percent of China's total box office earnings for the year. This year, Chinese cinemas shut down just prior to the holiday period and have yet to reopen. As of March 15, the China theatrical releases of 44 movies had been canceled or postponed, including 16 imported movies, Maoyan said. Total ticket revenue is widely expected to fall by at least 40 percent-50 percent in 2020.

Streaming services, however, are having a banner year. During the first week of the Chinese New Year (beginning Jan. 24), subscribers to Chinese streaming platforms climbed to 310 million from 289 million in 2019. A total of 26 online movies were released by local streaming companies during the holiday week, with iQiyi accounting for nearly half of the releases. The average daily views of these movies doubled compared to last year's average, Maoyan said.

The producers of two major theatrical films — Huanxi Media's comedy tentpole Lost in Russia and Donnie Yen comedy Enter the Fat Dragon — both responded to the escalating crisis by pulling their films from theatrical release and inking online distribution deals instead. Lost in Russia became the most watched title by far, scoring more than 600 million views within just the first three days of its release over ByteDance's various video services, including TikTok, Xigua Video and Toutiao. Enter the Fat Dragon was moved to iQiyi and Tencent Video on Feb. 1, generating 63 million paid views on Tencent Video within its first three days.

TV viewership also experienced a big surge in China during the early days of the pandemic — particularly news programs. For the extended 10-day Chinese New Year holiday period of Jan. 24-Feb. 2, the audience in China spent an average of 347 minutes watching TV per day, up 33 percent over the previous 10 days (January 14 to 23), and 13 percent more than the same holiday period in 2019. From Jan. 27 to Feb. 9, the average time spent watching TV news programs per day increased by 153 percent year-over-year to 135 minutes, according to the report.