Just like any other Asian entertainment production, the appetite for Chinese language content is growing steadily worldwide. In fact, in an online survey conducted between August 4 and August 15 this year by streaming service iQiyi, results showed that a promising 76 percent of global respondents started viewing Chinese dramas within the past two years, with 43 percent already watching regularly on streaming platforms.
Surveying 5,200 respondents across 26 countries via Pollfish also showed that one in two of those surveyed claimed to enjoy watching C-dramas and will recommend the titles they like to others. In particular, the majority of respondents wanting C-content are from Thailand (80 percent), Singapore (70 percent) and Malaysia (71 percent). More than 40 percent further consider it essential for a streaming service to offer Chinese language content.
Meanwhile, survey results from the Philippines revealed that 76 percent of the total number of respondents have started watching Chinese language dramas within the last two years, while 46 percent have already established a regular habit of watching Chinese content. From these two sub-groups, it was further discovered that more than half watch Chinese films and series on iQiyi.
“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 the streamer’s first global press conference.
“As Chinese content represents a cutting-edge entertainment trend, I’m thrilled to share that our ‘Sweet On Collection’ – launched in May 2021 and which focused on Chinese romance drama originals – 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,” he added.
Among the respondents, however, 18.92 percent have never watched a Chinese drama in the past year.
“This is where we want to wow and impress our audiences. To be the authoritative home of pan-Asian content, we want to make sure that the Chinese content we bring is the best in class,” enthused Yu-Chuang.
As such, iQiyi has gone into producing originals.
The service’s first Southeast Asia original series, “The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang,” which premiered on August 24, is a horror series that gives viewers can a peek into the underworld through the “Yin Yang eyes” of protagonist Xia Dong Qing (Lawrence Wong). He, along with his trusty partners Zhao Li (Qi Yuwu) and Xiao Ya (Kate Kinney), communicates with distressed, wandering souls in the mortal world and helps them with their unfinished business.
“Danger Zone,” which premiered on September 3, is iQiyi’s first original Chinese language prison series. It tells the story of a series of homicide cases breaking out in a coastal town named Donglin. With no hard clues to follow, rookie criminal investigator Ren Fei (Berant Zhu) one day receives an anonymous tip from Liang Yandong (Vic Chou), calling from within the prison.
“Rainless Love in a Godless Land” is based on mythology from the indigenous Amis tribe, where an unlikely romantic relationship between a tour guide and the God of Rain begins to blossom in parallel with the countdown to Armageddon. Starring an award-winning cast in Chiao Chiao Tzeng, Paul Fu, Kenny Yen, Alice Ko (special appearance), Joseph Cheng (special appearance), the release date is yet to be announced.
At the virtual event, The Ferryman cast was present to shared their on-set experiences.
“I’ve always been a horror film buff, but The Ferryman has more than just scary visuals. It also has a lot more depth, exploring questions on love and life,” said Wong when asked what drew him to his role.
As the show revolves around the theme of death, he reflected, “Filming this show actually reminded me about the many small joys in life that I’ve missed after having worked the last few years tirelessly.”
Yuwu, who plays the role of a grim reaper, admitted he fears the horror genre. But he decided to take on The Ferryman because it is “very rare to see such a large collaboration between Singapore and Malaysian cast and crew.”
While it took him some time to adjust to doing horror, he was delighted that “every story in The Ferryman had human elements.
“I enjoyed being able to convey these feelings through [my character, Zhao Li.”
Interestingly, an unexpected twist to a well-known character – the King of Hades – is delivered here by actress Jojo Goh. Portrayed as gender-fluid, the King of Hades is seen as the key influence of the many tales in the series.
Playing such a role for the first time, Goh shared, “When I was sharing about my involvement with friends and family, they were surprised that I was playing a traditionally male character. My King of Hades sometimes appears as female if she wants to, and male if he wants to.”
With “The Ferryman,” “Danger Zone,” and “Rainless Love in a Godless Land,” iQiyi should indeed successfully achieve its goal to cater to diverse tastes and genre preferences in the region through innovative storylines and premium production quality.