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Entertainment

iQiyi finds ‘growing’ global audience for C-dramas

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
iQiyi finds âgrowingâ global audience for C-dramas
iQiyi is now streaming its first Southeast Asian Original, The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang, topbilled by (from left) Qi Yuwu, Lawrence Wong and Kate Kinney. The Chinese-language drama is also the streaming platform’s first international original available on Dolby Atmos
STAR / File

Streaming platform iQiyi has found a growing audience worldwide, not just in Asia, for Chinese dramas also known as C-dramas.

Encouraged by the results of an online survey it recently conducted via Pollfish, the international streamer is looking to push the so-called C-wave further.

“Appetite for Chinese-language content is growing steadily worldwide and iQiyi is paving the path forward. We are truly encouraged by the number of global users who want and are willing to watch Chinese dramas,” said Kuek Yu-Chuang, iQiyi’s vice president of International Business, during a recent regional presscon.

iQiyi’s pilot study surveying 5,200 respondents across 26 countries in August found that a “promising 76-percent global respondents started sampling Chinese dramas within the past two years, with 43-percent watching these content on streaming platforms.”

 

One in two of those surveyed also claimed to enjoy watching C-dramas and will recommend C-dramas they like to others. “In particular, we see the most number of respondents enjoying C-content in Thailand (80 percent), Singapore (70 percent) and Malaysia (71 percent). More than 40 percent consider it important for a streaming service to offer Chinese-language content,” the survey said.

Meanwhile, results from the Philippines indicated that 76 percent of the total number of respondents have started watching C-dramas within the last two years, while 46 percent have established a regular habit of watching this kind of content.

“From these two sub-groups of audience, it was further discovered that more than half of them are watching Chinese films and series on iQiyi,” said the platform touted as China’s streaming giant but a “relative newcomer” in the Philippine OTT landscape.

Meanwhile, the company also charted its growth from 2018 by presenting some content milestones. It cited a BBC report that its Story of Yanxi Palace became the “most Googled” TV show of 2018 globally and streamed over 15 billion times on iQiyi worldwide. In 2020, its romance series Love is Sweet became No. 1 in Southeast Asia, doubling the number of users for the service in its week of launch. This year, it introduced the Sweet On collection and registered high viewership numbers for the three C-dramas Moonlight, The Day of Becoming You and Make A Wish within a 10-week period.

Yu-Chuang said, “I’m thrilled to share that our Sweet On collection, launched in May 2021 saw an encouraging viewership of over 59 million views globally. iQiyi is committed to offering our fans worldwide the best-in-class Chinese-language entertainment.”

In its quest to have a stronger regional presence, iQiyi also unveiled during the presscon its first Southeast Asian original series, The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang featuring Asian stars Lawrence Wong, Qi Yuwu, Kate Kinney, Tay Ping Hui, Jeanette Aw, Debbie Goh Jojo Goh and Koe Yeet.

A remake of a 2014 iQiyi series but now set in Southeast Asia, the series follows the ghost-busting duo Xia Dong Qing (Wong) and Zhao Li (Yu Wu) as they assist lost souls in the mortal world deal with unfinished business.

Xia Dong Qing’s secret is being able to communicate with dead spirits. After graduating from college, he does a part-time job at the No. 444 convenience store, which happens to be a soul station bridging the paranormal and the living. The store manager, Zhao Li, who has been stationed at No. 444 for 500 years, is a civil officer of the underworld who guides souls to the underworld.

After an accident, the soul of Olivia (Kin) comes to the store and with the help of Xia Dong Qing, she’s able to return to her body. She soon becomes a store regular, joining the tandem in helping souls reach their destinations.

Apart from The Ferryman, the virtual event also dropped trailers for the upcoming series Danger Zone and Rainless Love in a Godless Land.

The STAR attended a roundtable interview with the trio of lead stars of the supernatural-themed C-drama now streaming on iQiyi.

Wong is a Singaporean actor-singer born in Malaysia. He earned international fame via the Story of Yanxi Place in 2018. Qi Yuwu is a veteran Singapore-based Chinese actor best-remembered for his role in the Singaporean version of Little Nonya. Kinney is a Taiwanese actress known for the Taiwanese dramas Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner, Never Forget Then and Super Reunion.

Below are excerpts from their virtual chat with select Filipino media.

How was the filming experience and on location amidst pandemic protocols? What was the most challenging part for you?

Qi Yuwu: “We started filming during the pandemic but I felt safe. The filming sets and locations were under strict control. Outsiders couldn’t come in contact with the cast and crew, and vice-versa. It was such a safe environment. Of course, all acting was done how it was normally done as the actors and actresses weren’t in charge of dealing with COVID-19 protocols.”

Wong: “Hi Nathalie, just to answer your question: There are challenges definitely. For example, something as simple as putting on a mask, which is so so important. But can’t imagine filming under the sun the whole day in like 40 degrees Celsius and you have to wear a mask. And you could do all these uhm…physically challenging roles, not just for me but also for the crew as well. It can be quite suffocating, you know.

“So things like that we have to overcome but yet we have to be so vigilant about it because we can’t afford to be careless while we’re shooting the show. So that’s why I think The Ferryman is, compared to the other projects that we shot pre-COVID, is a lot harder, for sure, a lot more tedious, a lot tougher, a lot more challenging and demanding from everyone, not just the actors but the crew as well, physically, emotionally, mentally.

“But I’m so proud that we managed to do and complete such a big show despite all the challenges. That’s why you guys must watch it.”

Kinney: “I’m like the only actress/actor that had to be in lockdown in a hotel and couldn’t go anywhere. And most of the crew had the same situation as me, so we all had to stay in the hotel for five whole months and that was pretty depressing, I think, because we can’t really go anywhere because it’s not safe and we were not allowed to.

“So yeah, I thought that was quite depressing because my room doesn’t have a lot of sunlight and what I hear everyday is read the script, read the script, every single day. And like the director would keep asking me if I’m really familiar with my role and there’s no sunlight, and I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t do this anymore…’

“But as soon as we started filming, I felt a lot better, because I got to interact with people and everything. And I have great, great team members, so yeah, that’s a relief.”

What attracted you to The Ferryman?

Qi Yuwu: “I was attracted by the entire production, mainly the cast members. It was the first time for China, Malaysia and Singapore to work together on a single production. The topic of the show was also new and fresh to me. I myself am scared of the horror genre. I’ve never tried acting in a horror show. This show is also different. It’s not just about the horror. There are all sorts of emotional stories to it; romance, friendship and familial love. It has a lot of depth to it. It’s a very rewarding role. As an actor it brings a lot of satisfaction to act out such emotional depth and character.”

Have you had any experience in the paranormal in the past and did it help you prepare for the show?

Wong: “Yes, I have definitely experienced paranormal experiences in the past. You know, back in those days when I was still working as a cabin crew for Singapore Airlines, there was one trip I remember particularly. It was a long flight to Paris, you know how in overnight flights everyone would be asleep. All the crew would just hang out in the galley, and that’s what we did. And suddenly, there was a call button from the toilet. But that’s common right, because sometimes we mistake the flush button for the call attendant button. So I went and knocked on the door, OK, are you okay, is everything okay? And suddenly the sign vacant outside the toilet door, swiped from occupied to vacant. So, I was knocking and asking, hey, are you okay inside? But no answer, so I pushed the door a little, I kept asking, are you okay? And I pushed the door, now the door was fully open and I realized that there was no one inside. So, that was my personal experience.

“I think doing a paranormal show is very different because the reality is when we see a ghost, we really scream and run away or we may just pretend that nothing has happened, right? But yet, for the audience, they had to see something. So, as an actor, it’s a constant fine line between, what does the audience like to see and what is the reality. So, it’s up to us as an actor to grasp that and to present that out on film as accurately as we can and yet not overdoing it.”

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