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All of the drama, none of the attention span: Bite-sized soap operas are getting big

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Any good soap opera is filled with twists: a long-lost sibling, a hard slap across the face, and hospitals so good that waking from a coma is commonplace.

What they also often have, though, are hourlong episodes with seasons spanning decades.

And speaking of “The Young and the Restless,” today’s youths, raised on social media and apps, don’t have the attention spans for lengthy shows.

To remedy this, apps like ReelShort are creating minute-long, minidramas that are part TikTok video, part soap opera, per The New York Times.

ReelShort — owned by California-based Crazy Maple Studio and backed by Beijing-based digital content company COL Group — launched in 2022. And its format, which is already popular in parts of Asia, is taking off in the US:

  • ReelShort saw 1m downloads last month through Apple’s App Store and 3m through the Google Play Store, earning $5m and $3m, respectively.
  • In 2023, 7m+ people downloaded ReelShort in the US, while worldwide downloads surpassed 24m.
  • In December, the company reported having already hit $22m in revenue.

While viewers can access many free ReelShort episodes across platforms, including YouTube and TikTok, they’ll eventually have to pay or watch ads to unlock remaining episodes (most shows have 60-90 episodes). Some users pay as much as $10-$20.

Stay tuned

In 2020, short-form video streamer Quibi went under. Now, ReelShort is trying to pick up where it left off.

It’s not, however, trying to be Netflix — its business model is notably different from traditional streaming services.

  • It has a different target audience: 75% of its viewers are women.
  • The company is able to crank out content, with 100 new titles planned for 2024.
  • It’s also cheaper: the average show has a small crew of recent film graduates and costs ~$300k to make.

But it’s hardly alone: a slew of other apps — Sereal+, ShortTV, DramaBox, and FlexTV — are all vying for our short attention spans using the same recipe.

Anyway, if you binge “The Double Life of My Billionaire Husband” on company time, it’s technically free — right?

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