Stephen Chow’s microdrama success drives $5B market boom

    Even industry moguls like Stephen Chow cannot resist the lucrative allure of the microdrama format. Who can brands partner with for success?
    Image: Douyin @姜十七
      Published   in Lifestyle

    The microdrama market in China is experiencing unprecedented growth, attracting major industry players, including renowned Chinese film producer Stephen Chow.

    His recent foray into mini-drama production has been met with remarkable success. The hashtag “Stephen Chow’s Microdrama Breaks 1 Million Views After Being Online One Hour” (周星驰短剧上线一小时播放量破百万) has rapidly gained traction, amassing over 35 million views, proving that even industry moguls like Chow cannot resist the lucrative allure of the microdrama format.

    According to data from iiMedia Research, the market size for mini-dramas reached 37.4 billion RMB ($5.1 billion) in 2023 and is projected to surpass 100 billion RMB ($13.7 billion) by 2027. Initially popular among youths in third- and fourth-tier cities, Douyin miniseries are now capturing the attention of viewers in larger urban areas (first- and second-tier) who enjoy the fast-paced, engaging storylines.

    C-beauty brands have been quick to leverage this trend, with brands like Kans (韩束) generating impressive sales after collaborating with popular microdrama KOLs. Known for its “Red BB Cream,” Kans topped Douyin’s beauty brand list for 2023, achieving sales of over 3 billion RMB ($417 million).

    Kans’ success illustrates the immense opportunities that international brands are missing out on by not engaging with the rising mini-series genre. As the market continues to grow, there is a clear opening for global players to make their mark and tap into this dynamic segment. Here, Jing Daily presents the top micro drama KOLs making waves on China’s web and their MIV, or media impact value.

    Audrey Houben / @奥黛丽厚本#

    Image: Douyin @奥黛丽厚本
    Image: Douyin @奥黛丽厚本

    Douyin Followers: 10.2 million

    Average MIV (media impact value): $121,00 RMB

    Audrey Houben, known as the “Tai Koo Li Socialite,” ranks among the top influencers on Douyin.

    The Chengdu native has captivated audiences with her genuine and unpretentious personality. A confident, slightly chubby girl, she boasts a distinctive style and authentic, unpolished image that have garnered her millions of followers.

    Born in 1998, Audrey’s username cleverly plays on the iconic Audrey Hepburn. The deliberate choice of “Houben” instead of “Hepburn” signifies that she is not the authentic Hepburn but rather a fuller-figured, relatable version.

    Since May 2023, Audrey Houben has been starring in mini-dramas alongside the tall and handsome Xiao Yuhang. Her debut series, Challenge for a Loveless Best Friend: Remaking 100 Romance Films, is a captivating campus romance drama that has attracted a massive fanbase.

    Since then, she has created a series of hit mini-dramas in collaboration with homegrown C-beauty brands such as Kans and Proya. Notable examples include Son from the Future and the time-travel drama Houben’s Ancient Working Diary, both of which were well-received. The former consists of seven episodes, each lasting less than five minutes, and has accumulated 2 million views.

    Jiang Shiqi / 姜十七#

    Image: Douyin @姜十七
    Image: Douyin @姜十七

    Douyin followers: 37.8 million

    Average MIV: $103,000

    Jiang Shiqi has been producing short dramas since 2020, amassing over 37 million followers on Douyin alone. As of March 3, her latest 15 videos each have at least 30 million views, with the highest reaching an impressive 148.4 million.

    Among the top 10 trending short dramas on Douyin, three feature Jiang Shiqi as the lead actress: Happy Heiress (喜事千金), My Lady General (我的女将军大人), and Destined to Get Rich (命中注定快发财), with viewership figures reaching 620 million, 312 million, and 402 million, respectively.

    Recently, Pechoin teamed up with Jiang Shiqi to release three new short dramas: Restart My Life (重启我的人生), Climbing Over Mountains to Love You (翻山越岭来爱你), and Three CEOs Spoiling the Heiress (三个总裁团宠千金). Unlike smaller-scale brand ventures, each series consists of around eight episodes, representing more mature short-drama productions. Leveraging Jiang Shiqi’s extensive experience and large follower base, these collaborations quickly gained traction and amassed significant viewership.

    These dramas prominently feature Pechoin products through strategic placements and even incorporate brand ambassador Xin Zhilei’s advertisement clips. This approach has been well-received by the audience, who appreciate the integration of ads with the storyline and are supportive of their favorite creators securing sponsorships. This synergy is a key reason Pechoin chose to collaborate with Jiang Shiqi.

    On Douyin’s Star Map, Jiang Shiqi's promotional service starts at 150,000 RMB ($20,700) for a brand campaign. A common 1–20 second short video on Douyin costs 508,000 RMB ($70,120) per post. For brands seeking deeper involvement through custom-branded short dramas, the minimum investment is 1.55 million RMB ($207,000).

    Pai Xiaoxuan / 派小轩#

    Image: Douyin @派小轩
    Image: Douyin @派小轩

    Douyin followers: 10.8 million

    Average MIV: $202,000

    Pai Xiaoxuan, a comedic short video creator on Douyin, has amassed an impressive following of 7.46 million. Her content derives humor from the awkward moments of daily life and work. While scripted, her sketches are inspired by real-life experiences and exaggerated for comedic effect, resonating deeply with white-collar workers and earning hundreds of thousands to millions of likes per video.

    On one of her recent series of workplace videos, a viewer commented, “It looks like a joke, but it’s actually true.” This relatability likely caught the attention of Stephen Chow, who shared one of Pai Xiaoxuan’s workplace series videos on his social media account.

    Pai Xiaoxuan’s latest series, I Was a Spinster in the 1980s (我在80年代当剩女), sees her traveling back to the 1980s, portraying amusing scenarios from that era. The first video alone has garnered nearly 1 million views.

    This series stands out for being one of the rare instances where international brands such as La Mer and Lancôme have ventured into product placements within mini-series, signaling increasing global interest in this popular format.

    Liu Dayue / 刘大悦er#

    Image: Douyin @刘大悦er
    Image: Douyin @刘大悦er

    Douyin followers: 7.6 million

    Average MIV: $316,000

    Liu Dayue joined Douyin in July 2020, initially experimenting with a broad entertainment style before finding her niche in family sitcoms.

    Her Future Mom series has struck a chord with young audiences. The series portrays interactions between a comically unreliable mother and a smart, capable daughter, offering a humorous take on potential future dynamics. In just over a year, Liu Dayue has amassed over 7 million fans on Douyin, with her “Future Mom” videos consistently going viral. With 151 videos, she has garnered 180 million likes, averaging 1.2 million likes per video.

    As a young woman herself, Liu Dayue’s appeal lies in her skillful depiction of the idiosyncrasies of a younger generation stepping into parenthood. Her portrayal humorously suggests that even as parents, the 90s generation remains unconventional. Childhood habits, like snacking during class, persist into parent-teacher meetings, and roles are humorously reversed, with the daughter taking on the responsibility of waking her mother.

    Her relatable characters, remarkable acting skills, and keen sense of humor have made Liu Dayue a beloved figure on Chinese social media, attracting over 9 million followers across platforms.

    • The microdrama market in China reached 37.4 billion RMB ($5.1 billion) in 2023 and is projected to exceed 100 billion RMB ($13.7 billion) by 2027.
    • Stephen Chow’s microdrama gained over 35 million views and broke 1 million views within the first hour of release.
    • International brands can follow in the footsteps of Chinese beauty brands and consider product placement in mini-dramas or collaborations with popular microdrama KOLs, given their booming popularity in China.
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