Life,  Wealth

From “Mary Sue” to Millions: How Chinese Short Dramas Conquered the West

In early November, “It’s Finished!” which combines live-action short drama with game mode. I’m surrounded by beautiful women! “After it crazily dominated the Steam rankings, the short series “The Boss” with strong Chinese genes also became a hit in the United States.

Recently, a short drama app called ReelShort has ranked among the top three in the Apple Store, even surpassing TikTok, which has dominated the list for many years, and climbed to the top of the entertainment list.

After opening this app, you will find an inexplicable “earthy familiarity” with various “Mary Sue” titles: “The Double Life of My Billionaire Husband”, “I Kissed My Husband in a Vegetative State”, “The Daughter of the Werewolf Family” and so on… The themes include the grievances of wealthy families, werewolf taboos, etc. It can be said that the content of “overlord” exceeds the standard.
However, these seemingly “vulgar” works have triggered heated discussions among local audiences overseas. Many people even said, “I spent money to watch the entire show.”

With these exciting Western-style overlord short dramas, ReelShort has been downloaded a total of 11 million times on Android and Apple since its launch in August 2022, and its net revenue as of November 23 has exceeded US$22 million.

It can be seen that this wave of “Mary Sue” culture exported to the United States is very successful, and it has really made a lot of money in the United States. “The Economist” also published an article saying, “ReelShort represents another Chinese cultural export that has conquered the United States.”

It is worth mentioning that the company behind ReelShort, Chinese Online’s overseas subsidiary Crazy Maple Studio, has been making rapid progress in the A-share market since this month, with an increase of more than 100%.

How did the “short drama” that became so popular in China break through language and cultural barriers and successfully make European and American users “krypton gold”?

01 ” The boss’s love ” 2 minute 1 beautiful knife

Opening the ReelShort app, users can see that the above short drama is starred by overseas actors. It is based on Western themes and integrates classic “tycoons” from Chinese online novels such as “The Revenge of the Heroine”, “Grudges of the Rich”, and “Forbidden Love”. Earthy elements, mainly for the North American market, with middle-aged women as the target audience.

These short plays are basically within 3 minutes, mostly 1-2 minutes. The content is illogical and only depicts the word “cool”. I wish I had three reversals in two minutes.

Currently, there are dozens of live-action short dramas on ReelShort. Just take a look at the titles of the dramas on the homepage of Reelshort. What are they called:
“Destined Forbidden Love”
“The Werewolf’s Daughter”
“After Divorce, I Found My Wife Is a Billionaire”
“Goodbye, My CEO”

The themes cover rich families, revenge, underworld, werewolves, vampires, forbidden love, contract marriage, etc. Scroll down for more detailed categories: Marriage first, love later, boss area, revenge area, etc…

Borrowing from the popular drama “Destined Forbidden Love” to popularize the world view of this type of drama: “Selene, the orphan heroine, has been living a life of dependence on others, but at the age of eighteen she unexpectedly married two werewolves. Destined lover.”

After users download the APP, they can watch a few episodes for free. If they get enough and want to continue watching, they need to pay gold coins .

Each drama requires a different number of gold coins, usually 60-70 gold coins per episode, and the purchase price of gold coins is US$9.99/1000, which means that the price of each episode is approximately between US$0.1-0.7. . Each series has about 60 episodes. If you want to watch the entire series, you have to pay at least US$10 (equivalent to RMB 70). For longer episodes, you’ll pay $25-$50.

For example, if you need to pay 72 gold coins to watch one episode of this short drama, there are 50 episodes in total, and each episode is 1.5 minutes, then the entire 75-minute drama will cost about 250 yuan.

There are three main ways to obtain gold coins. Users can watch ads in exchange for coins, but can watch up to 20 ads per day. In addition, there are daily tasks on ReelShort. Users can receive a corresponding number of gold coins as rewards for completing the tasks. For example, if you log in for a week continuously, you will be rewarded with 165 gold coins.

Despite this, the total number of episodes that users can watch for free is still limited, which requires users to recharge and pay. This is also ReelShort’s monetization model.

Of course, ReelShort will give certain discounts to users who purchase gold coins. You can buy one and get one free at most, which is equivalent to 50% off the price.

For example, the hit “Never Divorce a Secret Billionaire Heiress” costs 0.52 euros per episode, with a total of 55 episodes. Calculated at a 50% discount, it costs approximately 110 yuan.

In fact, this payment method is higher than the unit price of going to a theater to watch a movie, or a monthly unlimited Netflix subscription.

But the user is addicted to CP and cannot stop at all. Data shows that at its peak, ReelShort’s global double-ended daily turnover was around US$270,000.

Some people will definitely be curious, what kind of company and team can so successfully export the earth-flavored short dramas that are popular on Chinese short video websites to the European and American markets to harvest overseas leeks like crazy?

02 AI blessing, Short drama production blowout

The company behind ReelShort is Crazy Maple Studio (Maple Leaf Interactive) headquartered in Sunnyvale, USA. Even though this company has an English name, it is actually an out-and-out Chinese company.

In fact, Crazy Maple Studio (Maple Leaf Interactive) is a division of ChineseAll USA, which is a company under Beijing COL (Chinese Online) Digital Publishing Group. Founder Joey Jia established Crazy Maple Studio in 2017.

It is not difficult to understand that many of ReelShort’s operating methods are exactly the same as those in China.

Initially, in August 2022, ReelShort translated domestic short plays and launched them directly overseas . After several months of operation, the App has been tepid, and its dual list ranking is basically outside the 1,000th place.

As a result, the ReelShort team changed their strategy. Actors, scenes and scripts were all sourced locally. Most of the scripts were adapted from popular overseas IPs . The duration of a single episode was limited to less than 3 minutes. As a result, it suddenly hit the “pain point” of the United States. ”.

At that time, ReelShort only had English content, and later added Indonesian, Spanish, Thai, German, Portuguese and other versions.

At the same time, ReelShort began to use the large AI model “Chinese Xiaoyao” to generate scripts or optimize scripts, accelerating content production on a large scale. Since then, continuing to output targeted mass-produced content has become Reelshort’s way of survival.

In July this year, two short dramas on Reelshort became hits: “Fated To My Forbidden Alpha” and “Never Divorce a Secret Billionaire Heiress”. ReelShort also frequently appears on entertainment application lists in various countries. At the forefront, downloads have also experienced explosive growth.

At this time, the team began to increase investment and used TikTok, Instagram and YouTube as promotional areas: uploading some short drama clips and then directing users to the ReelShort App to watch . In addition, the team also vigorously purchased and released the game, focusing on the Android version, which immediately entered the Top 30 of the non-game launch list.

According to statistics from the data company Sensor Tower, ReelShort had about 2 million new downloads every month from July to October.

On TikTok, ReelShort has 370,000 fans, the three pinned videos alone have 62.6 million likes, and the topic #shortdrama# has been viewed 722.7 million times.

In addition, since the beginning of November, Col (Chinese Online) stock price has hit a seven-year high, and its market value has more than doubled to US$3 billion.

Despite this, according to a survey of overseas social media by the Financial Associated Press, ReelShort does appear to be popular on the overall list, but it is not highly discussed in overseas social media, and the skits are not played much. This has also caused ReelShort is suspected of “buying volume to swipe the rankings”.

In fact, long before Reelshort, Crazy Maple Studio (Maple Leaf Interactive) had launched two novel products, “Kiss-Read & Write Romance” and “Chapters: Interactive Stories”.

The former was launched in August 2020, focusing on the immersion of stories and providing a pure reading experience. The novels published include love, fantasy, suspense, LGBT and other themes. The latter emphasizes the “sense of immersion” and has always been at the top of the revenue list of Chinese books and comics overseas. It currently ranks 14th in the App Store’s book category and has also become one of the important sources of subsequent Reelshort scripts.

Chapters had more than 15 million registered users as early as 2019. In view of this, it has adapted online articles into interactive games. In 2020, its monthly revenue reached US$14 million.

The format of the game is simple: choose your story from the Chapters of Pact Marriage, Pirates, Alpha Wolf, Outworld, Sci-Fi, Reality, and TV series. In most cases, the male and female protagonists are trapped in a bloody sadomasochism, and you decide the direction of the plot through choices (falling in love, discovering secrets, or uncovering deep mysteries, etc.) and get different endings. Of course, some options come with a fee.

It is such a “game that doesn’t look like a game”. Since its launch, its ranking on the best-selling list in the United States has been rising, and it was once close to the Top 20, with annual revenue reaching hundreds of millions of yuan.

In this regard, Jia Yi, the founder of Crazy Maple Studio (Maple Leaf Interactive), mentioned earlier, “They are making games according to the publishing idea, that is, they do not emphasize the gameplay and focus on the story and rhythm. In this way, they are different from competing products. It forms a difference and stands out. So rather than saying that “Chapters” is a game, it is a content platform.”

It can be seen that Crazy Maple Studio (Maple Leaf Interactive) almost covers the three major categories of short dramas, web articles and interactive novels in the IP derivative chain. Now, it has begun to try the “synergy effect” between different content apps. For example, in August this year, it launched a movie called “Fatal Temptation Between Two Alphas” simultaneously on the three platforms of Chapters, Kiss, and ReelShort. work.

03 Short play “Going to Sea”, The track is crowded

In fact, Chinese Online is not the only company that produces short plays abroad. This year, manufacturers such as Xinyue Times, Changdu Technology, and Jiuzhou Culture are eager to try and make a big splash in the overseas short play market.

The popularity of ReelShort has also led domestic short drama platforms to focus on overseas markets.
According to statistics from relevant media, more than a dozen Chinese short drama apps have flooded overseas in September. As the number of entrants continues to increase, the traffic competition on this track is rapidly becoming fiercer.

Despite this, analysts from investment institutions said, “ReelShort still has problems such as a difficult to make profit business model and low content content.”
In the Apple Store and Google Store, users’ reviews of ReelShort are also mixed.

Many users said that although ReelShort’s dramas are all performed by amateurs, the overall look and feel is still good. In addition, there is no compulsion to purchase membership, which is worthy of recognition.

However, some users said, “They would rather pay for a subscription, and advertising should be more restricted.” In addition, many people complained, “There are very few episodes that can be watched for free by watching ads, and the overall charges for the episodes are still a bit high. ”

In short, the business model of short dramas may be best summarized by Musk’s words about TikTok, “Short dramas are using the power of human nature to make money.”

After several years of development, domestic short dramas have achieved a stable user base, and the profit model of short dramas has gradually become clearer. However, overseas, short dramas are still an emerging industry. Whether short dramas can “run” overseas remains to be seen, observe.

error: Content is protected !!