For over five years now, people in China have been watching exclusively streamed television shows online. But it is only in the past few months that indications of consolidation in the industry are becoming evident. This is an observation voiced by Sohu.com’s video section chief Shang Na.
Figures estimate that China has a whopping 450 million internet video viewers which amount to 80% of its total population with internet access. Market analysts from iResearch, a China-based consultancy agency opine that this number could soar to 700 million by as early as 2016.
Television shows are increasingly preferred by viewers as they can be watched at any time during the day or night on any device with internet connectivity. Sohu.com’s series Absolutely Unexpected has seen 500 million views since its 2013 premier while Diors Man, another show from the Sohu.com stable reports 1 million views. The inference being drawn by market experts is that the age of online television has truly arrived in the country. But it also signals that the video services industry needs to graduate to the next step of distributing original content, according to Shang. He was speaking at a forum in the autonomous region of Guangxi Zhuang recently.
According to scriptwriter Liu Heping, who is also the deputy head of China Radio & Television Association’s scriptwriter working committee, it is time for television to clear the path for online video. In fact, Liu has plans of producing his own web-based TV show centered on the life and times of Zeng Guofan, a celebrated warrior and commander who served the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Besides Chinese shows, online video website such as Sohu, Sina, and Youku stream shows from Europe, the United States, and South Korea. However, the tough controls that the industry faces are likely to impede growth.