Web Comedy Series in China - Diors Man (屌丝男士)

An old acquaintance came into town for the All That Matters conference. We started to talk about web comedy in Asia and I told him about Diors Man (屌丝男士), a funny web series in its third year. It's extremely popular in China and mainly targets the domestic market (hence, no official English subtitles). 

How popular is the show? Johnny Galecki, more famously known as Leonard Hofstadter from The Big Bang Theory, guest starred on the web series (see the video on the right).

Japanese AV actress Akiho Yoshizawa (吉沢明歩) has also guest starred on the show. Don't let the view count fool you as the show is extremely popular and it's not limited to just YouTube. If you do an aggregate view count, where you tally viewership from all the different platforms in China, I'm sure the show is in the millions. And yet there is no English wikipedia page for the show. 

I'm bringing this up to show that there's a lot of amazing, original content in China, but Chinese producers are mostly interested in the sizable domestic market. Netflix acquired the popular Chinese drama Empresses In The Palace for its U.S. audience but I'm not sure of the demographics that would watch Empresses In The Palace in the US.

On the other hand, a funny, irrelevant show like Diors Man has a much wider appeal since these guys are lovable losers/geeks, much like the appeal of The Big Bang Theory. The title - Diors Man - is a play on the idea of the lovable loser. Dior is, of course, the name of the luxury brand. A popular Chinese slang is 屌丝 (diǎosī) which means loser so the idea is that these guys think they're high-end, but in reality they're just charming losers. 

It's shows like these that Netflix or other video platforms should try to acquire. 

Evolution of Daredevil Costumes

Been watching Netflix's Daredevil series and it's very well-executed. The casting is great and Vincent D'Onofrio plays an electrifying villain.

While I'm glad that the Netflix series got rid of the horns for Daredevil's costume (what were those for anyway?), I think a little color or emblem would be nice.  The current costume also bears a strong resemblance to the costume used in the 1989 film. Right now, the current costume doesn't have any unique identifiers and so technically, anyone can wear it. If Daredevil wants to inspire fear like Batman, he needs the villains to know that it's him, and not some other guy wearing all black. 

YouTube, Netflix, and Vine - Vying for Kids' Hearts

Children's media app is the next battleground for the media industry.

Last month, YouTube launched a YouTube Kids app, Vine launched a Vine Kids app, and Netflix announced that its expanding its kids’ lineup with 5 new shows. Why this sudden interest in kids' media apps? I think it's due to the proliferation of content — print, blogs, TV, web videos, film, video games, selfies, vine videos, etc — and the fact that a lot of the content were previously not targeted toward kids. 

Online media providers like YouTube, Netflix, and Vine realize that the market penetration for adult is already very high and if you want to expand your market, you have to look at expanding your demographics. Kids seems like an easy choice because they are a gateway to the household and they eventually grow up to be in the initial target market. If kids were so easy and convenient, why now? That's probably because of the advancement in machine learning and algorithm. It's easier now for computers to categorize content than when YouTube was first starting out. Either way, it looks like content providers are now focusing on the children's market and it'll be that way for some time. 

That's good news for kids, headaches for parents, and a godsend for advertisers. 

Nintendo's Treasure Chest

A couple of weeks ago, there were news about Netflix developing a live-action adaptation of Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series.

This bodes well for Nintendo and may help Nintendo in stopping its money drainage. It's no secret that the Nintendo video game console is not as popular as Sony Playstation or XBox One. Nintendo has not had any overwhelming success since the original Wii system back in 2006. 

While Nintendo did try to previously license its characters for live adaptation, bringing to mind the critical and commercial disaster that was the 1993 Super Mario Bros movie, this time is different. 

For one, Netflix has a record of producing decent shows. Marco Polo isn't as successful as people anticipated, but it is successful enough. House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Arrested Development are some of the few Netflix series that command a huge following. 

Secondly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe illustrates that a faithful adaptation can translate to massive success. 

Nintendo has arguably the most recognizable video game characters in the world. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Kid Icarus, Samus (of the Metroid franchise), and, of course, Link of the Legend of Zelda franchise. Except for Kid Icarus, these Nintendo characters have brought in hundred of millions of dollars for Nintendo. 

A Nintendo Cinematic Universe would bring a lot of money into the coffer and allow Nintendo to continue publishing video games. Bear in mind, Marvel entered bankruptcy in 1996 and that Disney bought it for $4 billions in 2009. Marvel's fortune shifted dramatically in 13 years and it's due to the success of its cinematic universe. 

The success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe propelled its current run and high valuation. If Nintendo, with its staple of bankable characters, can execute a similar success, then Nintendo's valuation will also shift dramatically. 

Of course, all this depends on Nintendo's ability to create a cinematic universe, something it has little experience with. It's speculative and premature to say that this move will be a major success for Nintendo, but it does mark a remarkable departure from its previous decision to not adapt its franchises following the 1993 disaster of a movie. 

It's all in the metrics

As online & mobile viewership continue to increase, the industry will be battling with asymmetric information. 

"Wall-garden" platforms like NetFlix, the upcoming HBOgo, and various upcoming dedicated streaming apps from CBS, Lionsgate, and the likes will have no desire to share their information to outsiders. After all, viewership is perceived to determine pricing of content and it's in the platform's best interest to keep it secret. 

Nielsen Media Research, the storied viewership research firm, announced that they'll be providing estimation of online and mobile viewership for the media industry. NetFlix and the likes are, naturally, not too happy about the announcement as Nielsen is essentially providing statistics that were not formerly available for the content owners. 

Unfortunately, I think it's going to be a huge mess as Nielsen Media Research, without access from NetFlix directly, is unable to provide actual data, just estimation from their own sample pool. But, those estimation might be extremely inaccurate if NetFlix doesn't confirm the findings. It'll be a story of "he said, she said" with the content owner and audience stuck in the middle. 

While content owners might be tempted to use Nielsen to bargain with NetFlix, if the numbers are wrong and NetFlix doesn't value the content the same as the content owner does, then the content owners are at a disadvantage. After all, NetFlix doesn't make money from advertisement which is wholly dependent on viewership; that's the way of TV stations and cable networks. Simply put, content owners can't value viewership on an online platform the same way they value viewership on TV or cable. If Nielsen's numbers are accurate though, then online streaming providers will probably try to find ways to change their methodology so that it'll negatively affect Nielsen's measurement and it'll be end up being a game of cat-and-mouse. 

Ultimately, this shows that whoever controls the accurate metrics, controls the negotiation. 

Netflix's Expansion and Experimentation

Netflix announced on Tuesday that it's going to officially launch in Australia and New Zealand in March 2015. Netflix continues its global expansion, which has been expected for quite some time. Its currently the market leader in streaming licensed content. 

What is more interesting than Netflix's announcement is its experimentation. 

Last month, Netflix Design Director Dantley Davis shared that Netflix is experimenting with “bite-sized content”. The bite-sized content is an edited versions of the longer content already available on Netflix. It'll mostly be key scenes from TV shows, snippets from films, and highlights from comedy stand-up specials. 

The intention is to trim down the content to 10 minutes or less as more and more people watch content on their mobile device. While the TV screen is the still the dominant screen for Netflix users, mobile is where Netflix is witnessing the biggest growth. Davis also shared this interesting tidbit - mobile users generally check their phones about 150 times a day and that 87% of Netflix mobile sessions last no more than 10 minutes. Hence, Netflix's experimentation with shorter content. Of course, the difficulty is ensuring that the bite-sized contents are “contextually relevant” and yet compelling to the users. 

Besides the bite-sized content, Netflix is also experimenting with personalization. At this year's Gigaom’s Roadmap conference, Davis shared that Netflix is in the process of launching custom icons which will change according to the specific user and their mobile device. Davis gave an example of how he liked Star Wars because of its sci-fi elements and that his sister liked it because of Princess Leia. Netflix's goal is to be able to show different icons for different users based on their interests. Davis explained that, “with mobile [Netflix] can be more personal and more adaptive.” 

Netflix demonstrates why its the market leader with its expansion, experimentation, and personalization features. Short-form content providers like Viddsee needs to ensure its laser-focus in its curation and features if it hopes to compete against the likes of YouTube, Vimeo, and now Netflix.