During the coronavirus pandemic, TikTok China is transforming into an online movie platform. Douyin currently offers dozens of free movies such as The Last Emperor, the Great Wall, or Farewell, My Concubine.
TikTok is a music and social video platform developed by ByteDance in markets outside of China. Earlier, ByteDance launched Douyin exclusively for users on Chinese territory in September 2016.
TikTok and Douyin are known for short videos of teenagers’ lip-syncing or humorous movements.
Currently, ByteDance is allowing Chinese users to watch dozens of movies on the Douyin app, including many famous international titles such as the film The Last Emperor (won 9 awards at the 60th Academy Awards ceremony), Farewell, My Concubine (won the Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival), The Great Wall (directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Matt Damon).
The reason behind this action may stem from the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in China. When cinemas were forced to close at the end of January, director Xu Zheng of Lost in Russia took an unusual strategy: skipping the releasing phase in theaters despite the huge expectation from the audience, instead, the movie was released on Douyin and other ByteDance platforms after HuanXi Media paid at least 630 million yuan (approximately $89M) to broadcast during the Chinese New Year. This agreement also includes many other movies and TV series.
China has had a hard time getting theaters back to work despite announcing the return of hit movies like Avatar and Marvel’s Avengers series back to theaters. This re-release is supposed to support box office revenue when theaters open after COVID-19 cases decrease. But just a week after reopening, a new case led the government to close down theaters again last week.
This may have made it easier for some studios to decide to broadcast online. Another movie, The Winner, has also premiered on ByteDance platforms, including Douyin, Watermelon Video and news aggregator Jinri Toutiao since this month.
Even television shows are taking similar steps. ByteDance has an agreement to stream a talk show called Comedy Weekend Online.
Unlike the international TikTok version, Douyin diversifies content into providing short and funny videos. Following the online movie transformation of Tiktok China, recently, Douyin has introduced the live streaming feature and was used by many users in the boredom of being at home avoiding the COVID-19 epidemic. Thousands of people have used Douyin to watch DJ performances in what is now known as “cloud clubbing”.
Besides, users in China can also start watching music chains, talk shows or concerts on Douyin.
And the good news for users is that all this content is currently free. This also means ByteDance is trying to grow its audience so that it can build a platform like a Chinese Netflix, Alibaba’s iQiyi, Baidu’s Youku or Tencent Video.