Reelshort: The Phenomenon Of Ultra-short Chinese Series

Have you heard about ReelShort? This made-in-China app, which is a huge hit in the United States, has just arrived in France. It allows you to watch ultra-short Chinese series on your phone. Decoding a phenomenon that caters to binge-watchers on the go.

A new trend originating from China

If you've heard of the ReelShort app, you're already familiar with the existence of ultra-short Chinese series.

These made-in-China dramas adopt the format of television series, with the key difference that each episode lasts only one minute. These very short stories are designed to be watched on smartphones when you don't have much time to spare.

The concept of ultra-short series is at the heart of the ReelShort app, which is a hit in the United States. This app, launched in 2022, exceeded the milestone of 10 million downloads in the United States by the end of 2023. Its success has inspired other apps from China such as GoodShort, DramaBox, or 99TV…

Low-cost fictions

Chinese ultra-short series certainly appeal to viewers for their brevity. They can be watched on public transport or in a doctor's waiting room.

The American daily The Washington Post, which has looked into this phenomenon in the United States, decodes the mechanics of these very short fictions. These fast-paced TV series consist of episodes lasting less than 5 minutes, broadcast on smartphones in vertical format like TikTok reels with at least three plot twists per minute. All for less than 1€ to pay per episode viewed...

Easy to watch for binge-watchers on the go, these episodes are just as simple to produce. The filming of these fictions would cost an average of 25€ per episode, with 100 episodes filmed in a single week.

In summary, they constitute a form of low-cost but extremely lucrative series. On ReelShort, for example, the first episodes are free, then you have to pay to watch the rest. In China, this industry was already worth 37.39 billion yuan in 2023, which is nearly 5 billion euros!

Twists and cliffhangers galore

To quickly capture the viewer's attention, Chinese ultra-short series extensively use twists and cliffhangers.

These dramas feature melodramatic stories of forbidden love, betrayal, and revenge. The soap opera-like plots are very engaging and deliberately target young women. They often involve vampires, werewolves, and wealthy single heirs…

Even though the plots are hardly surprising, watching on a smartphone is highly addictive. Although the storyline is often predictable, each episode ends with a cliffhanger that compels the user to pay to watch the next episode and find out what happens next.

A symptomatic format of a hurried world

According to the data analysis platform iiMedia, one billion Chinese users spent an average of 2.5 hours per day watching short video content in 2023.

Much like TikTok before them, ultra-short Chinese series seem to have a bright future ahead. To conquer the rest of the world, this industry is adapting plots often derived from Chinese literature for an international audience and exploring new genres such as thrillers and suspense.

These episodes also diversify their cultural references by featuring religious values and customs from the Middle East, stories of wealthy families in Thailand, or supernatural legends from Romania. Looking abroad is also a good way for this industry to escape the censorship imposed by the Chinese government.

On TikTok as well as on ReelShort, the craze for short video content is symptomatic of our increasingly fast-paced societies. Even the busiest individuals can become passionate about fiction... provided that it's broken down into bite-sized episodes of a few minutes.

Author: Audrey
Copyright image: jeshoots on Freerange Stock
Tags: Chinese, APP, United States, TikTok, China, smartphones, Smartphone, Werewolves, cliffhanger, data analysis, vampires, bright future, Chinese Literature, thrillers, suspense, fiction, Chinese government, Censorship, Romania, supernatural, Thailand, Middle East, customs, involve, soap, television series, short stories, heart, apps, appeal, brevity, public transport, American, The Washington Post, tv series, 5 minutes, reels, Easy, 100 episodes, yuan, LOVE, France,
In French: ReelShort : le phénomène des séries chinoises ultra courtes
En español: ReelShort: el fenómeno de las series chinas ultracortas
In italiano: ReelShort: il fenomeno delle serie cinesi ultra brevi
Auf Deutsch: ReelShort: das Phänomen der extrem kurzen chinesischen Serien
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