Web series came up to China quietly. Different from traditional TV series, web series is supplied to the viewers with a click or two on their electronic devices, whenever and wherever. Until 2014, 0.65 billion Chinese had already had access to the Internet, many of which regularly visit VOD websites and contribute viewing numbers to web series.
Among a large number of web series mushrooming in the past few years, the most well-known ones are The Grave Robber’s Journal Super Hero Made in China, Y.E.A.H, The Crazy Life, Two Girls, One Step Away, etc., themed with fantasy, adventure, romance and all sorts.
One of the main factors that propel the emergence of web series is its relatively low costs and high yields, and therefore is regarded as low-quality production for some time. In 2014 however, a series named Back in Time broke the situation.
“When the whole industry considered web series as low-cost, we decided to lead the business by investing ¥ 1m RMB (equals £ 0.1055m) in each episode of Back in Time,” claims Na Shang, Chief Editor of Sohu Video Content Centre, “netizens want to see not only short works, or meaningful things, but actually nice things—something relaxing, and of high quality.”
Back in Time, adopted from Jiuyehui’s novel, depicts the youth of five people who experience pure love and friendship throughout their campus life. “I read this novel six years ago and found it really distinctive. It’s like a portrait of a group of people including every one of us,” says Zhenhua Zhu, Chief Production Director of Sohu Video.
Before shooting, Sohu Video decided to adopt 4K (a resolution widely respected by the film industry along with all other DCI standards), to make the first 4K web series in China. They are commited to a thorough 4K process, ensuring a 4K quality from shooting to post-production and output. In fact, the team even released their series on the cinema screen.
Since its launch on August 4, 2014, the series has enjoyed support from users, who expressed their feelings for their youth by leaving comments on Sohu message boards and posting on Weibo and Wechat. Also, weibo charts of hot topics, hot series and popular searches were occupied by “Back in time” for several times.
The industry predicts a promising future for web series in China. An official of Tudou, a VOD website, points out that their website used to be dependent on imported TV series and short videos their users uploaded, but now professionally-produced web series is the way out. “It is open, interactive and relaxing, welcoming everyone’s participation,” he added.