What Happened: More Chinese dramas are coming to a streaming service near you. On April 1, the mega-popular show Reset, a time-travel series that garnered over 1.8 billion views as of February 2022, will be available on Netflix in select regions. At the same time, iQIYI, China’s answer to Netflix, recently announced that it will be introducing its original Chinese programs to Spanish-speaking regions for the first time, after expanding to North America, Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea, and other markets.
The Jing Take: For years, Chinese content has seen growing success worldwide. When The Story of Yanxi Palace aired in 2018, it was streamed over 15 billion times across more than 70 markets, becoming the “most Googled show on Earth.” The Untamed and Word of Honor, two Chinese Boys’ Love (BL) dramas, have similarly attracted global fanbases after being released on platforms like Netflix, WeTV, and YouTube. In 2021 alone, more than 1,500 episodes of iQIYI’s Chinese content received the copyright to distribute overseas, further solidifying China’s soft power.
This growth aligns with an iQIYI survey conducted last year, which found that 76 percent of respondents across 26 countries started sampling Chinese dramas within the past two years. As such, there are more opportunities for brands to tap Chinese stars not just for local marketing spots but for their global campaigns as well. Already, Tiffany & Co. has promoted Jackson Yee, award-winning actor of the movie Better Days, to a global ambassador position. Meanwhile, Cartier has leveraged rapper Jackson Wang, a frequent face on local variety shows, to promote Pasha de Cartier alongside well-known names like Troye Sivan, Maisie Williams and Lily Collins.
That said, there are some factors that may keep China’s entertainment industry from reaching the same heights as South Korea’s. For one, whereas Korean content has been increasingly welcomed by international audiences thanks to the popularity of K-pop groups like BTS and Blackpink, as well as hit shows like Squid Game (which took home three SAG awards), Chinese popular culture has not yet entered the mainstream. On top of this, China’s push for patriotic storylines, particularly through its blockbusters, does not resonate well in the West; Wolf Warrior 2, which grossed over $800 million domestically, earned just $2.7 million in North America. Plus, the government’s censorship and ongoing crackdown on celebrities doesn’t particularly inspire confidence.
While Reset may not be the next Squid Game, it does reflect the budding demand for Chinese productions abroad. And as this C-wave continues to spread, brands can get more bang for their buck by partnering with domestic programs — be it through ambassadorial appointments, collabs or product placements — as a way to speak to fans worldwide.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.