China’s micro-drama boom takes viewers by storm both at home and abroad

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Outside of China, the super-short-form episodic video content took off in Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic years as viewers sought quick entertainment amid movie theatre closures.

However, until recently, it had yet to win over audiences from the United States.

Short-form video streaming app ReelShort is changing that, quickly becoming one of the most downloaded entertainment apps in the US.

“People call us the mini soap opera. They watch our shows at lunchtime, while waiting for elevators, etc,” said Mr Joey Jia, CEO of Crazy Maple Studio, the company that publishes the platform.

Mr Jia, a Chinese tech industry veteran who founded the California-based firm, said the key to a successful show is keeping the plot moving – and fast.

“We have to change the entire story structure to put the biggest hook at the very beginning. If we don’t hook people at the very beginning, we’re losing people,” he explained. “So, we didn’t invent a brand new market. We are still focusing on romance stories, (but) we try to create a new different way of storytelling.”

Some industry experts said they believe the brand’s success is a sign that audiences are ready for something different from the user-generated content that dominates TikTok and other social media platforms.

“Videos that people are kind of over-consuming right now, they’re getting a little tired of them because it seems like every time you scroll, you’re getting (the same content). I feel like the industry’s going where they want to see better, higher quality produced stuff,” said creative director of production agency Envy Creative Mike Vannell.

Right now, it is still early days for micro-dramas, especially outside of Asia. But as more viewers catch on and competitors take note of what companies like ReelShort are doing, experts said every minute counts in content production as other firms look to jump on the bandwagon.

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