AB InBev is the sponsor of "That Love Comes," the first drama series produced by Tudou's Orange Box made-for-internet original programming initiative and Warehouse No. 6, an independent filmmakers' incubation program. The brewer launched BudLime, a lime-flavored light beer, in China last month.
The storyline, a love story about a sophisticated commercial photographer and his small-town sweetheart, resembles dramas that have long been popular with young women--also the target market for BudLime--in neighboring countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. But such series are still relatively new on Chinese airwaves, where sweeping historical dramas are common fare on staid terrestrial channels.
The new series is part of a move by China's leading online video sites to produce more original content rather than relying on pirated videos as computers increasingly replace TV sets for many bored young Chinese viewers.
The internet has changed options for savvy young viewers and advertisers eager to reach them. Tudou plans to roll out mini versions of "That Love Comes" for mobile phone downloads. It is also looking at export opportunities for the series and may develop an iPad app.
"Digital media is getting more and more popular. We'll be very aggressive in 2010. Our goal is to dominate cyberspace," said Vivian Yeh, the beer giant's new media manager for China in Shanghai.
Pre-roll and background banner ads and a TV spot, created by Image boutique in Hong Kong, for BudLime run with each episode at www.tudou.com/home/thatlovecomes, and BudLime is integrated into the plot as a source of inspiration for the photographer. The digital campaign was developed by Aegis-owned Wwwins Consulting in Shanghai.
|A trailer for Tudou's first film series, 'That Love Comes.'|
"The story fits our product key communication, 'Turn on the night,'" Ms. Yeh said. The photographer "has a glamorous life, which fits the lifestyle of our target audience for BudLime."
Tudou evolves into content producer
The show's debut comes on the heels of a major cash infusion at Tudou. In early August, it closed a $50 million funding round that will be used to transform Tudou's web site model into a full-fledged media house.
"We want to get our own hands deep into the content business and minimize the dependencies that stem from involving too many third parties," said Gary Wang, Tudou's founder and CEO in Shanghai. Tudou plans to launch a second branded-drama series this fall and is aggressively recruiting young independent filmmakers to develop more web-based productions.
Interest in Tudou and rival video sites like Youku and Ku6--and even the video off-shoots of portals Sina and Sohu and the search giant Baidu--is growing quickly as their content improves.
Like YouTube, which is banned in China, video sites in China started out broadcasting amateur files uploaded by users.
They also contain full-length episodes of foreign series like "Prison Break" and "NCIS" that appear on Chinese sites just hours after the shows premiere in their home markets, usually with subtitles, which helped their viewership rise fast.
Exposure to foreign shows that are seldom given government approval to run on state-controlled TV channels has made coveted 18-to-35-year-old Chinese viewers less willing to watch the dull programming that local censors do approve.
As a result, computers have replaced television sets for many consumers. Last year, the number of online video users in China climbed over 32% to 309 million, according to iResearch. Tudou claims to reach 200 million unique viewers per month and air more than 300 million videos every day.
"Tudou is hoping to engage the younger generation who find Chinese television based on history, family and wartime periods unappealing," said Anita Huang, VP of product, user and business development business in Shanghai. The new series is a "calculated and strategic attempt to expand [Tudou's] content offerings based on the television model."
Video sites try to curb piracy
The executives running China's video sites privately acknowledge that illegal content often airs on their platforms, but the major players are taking steps to stamp out piracy.
"Everyone is jumping to capitalize on the growth of the online video industry in China as they see the trends of consumer media behavior changing and advertising dollars are shifting toward internet video," said Tudou's Ms. Huang.
Ad spend in China's online video category grew to nearly $200 million last year, a 70% increase over spending in 2008, and iResearch predicts it will continue to grow 60% to 80% annually in the next three years.
"Online video pure play, portals, search engines and TV players are re-organizing themselves around the video entertainment market paradigm change," Ms. Huang said.
Youku has its own initiative to produce online video content, Youku Originals. Last month, it launched a short-film series called The "11 Degrees" New Media Film Project, a joint effort with the China Film Group sponsored by Shanghai GM.
Ku6, formerly named Hurray! Holding Co., says it has sworn off pirated content. Baidu has launched Qiyi.com, a Hulu clone that only broadcasts copyrighted programming, and state-run China Central TV (CCTV) created a new digital arm this year, China Network Television, to broadcast its own Chinese-language news, sports, entertainment and podcasts on multiple digital platforms at www.cntv.cn.
Return to the Ad Age China home page here