China’s Internet users have long been able to watch television shows and movies for free, so online video on demand subscription services have had trouble gaining traction. Earlier this summer, however, there was a sign that the situation might be changing after the online video site iqiyi.com premiered its original series The Lost Tomb. In less than a day, the first episode received more than 100 million hits. More importantly, viewers rushed to sign up for the site’s paid subscription service to watch the rest of the series immediately. As the online video industry struggles to make ends meet, subscription services – driven by original productions – offer a tantalizing source of revenue. Still, industry analysts said these sites must maintain the quality of their content to keep subscribers paying.
It took less than 24 hours for iQiyi to realize it had a hit on its hands. On June 12, the Beijing-based video streaming company released the first season of its original series The Lost Tomb on its website iqiyi.com. The first episode got more than 100 million hits in the first 22 hours after it was released – a record for a domestic video site.
Although the website has made a new episode of the show available to viewers for free each week since the premiere, it has also offered access to the entire 12-episode season to its subscribers, who pay a 19.8 yuan ($3.10) monthly membership fee.
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