iQIYI Bows China’s First Interactive TV Program

Taking a page from Netflix’s playbook, iQIYI, China’s online entertainment platform, June 21 said it officially launched the erstwhile Communist country’s first domestic interactive film and television program, “His Smile.”

The program, which gives viewers 21 preset storyline options and 17 possible endings, comes a month after iQIYI announced the launch of the world’s first interactive video guideline.

Netflix, which is not available in China as a standalone service, last December became the first SVOD service offering interactive TV when it let subscribers choose an ending for original movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

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“His Smile,” produced by iQIYI and Linghe Media, tells the story of the interaction between a newcomer in the workplace, who is an assistant talent manager at a media company, and members of upcoming boyband hoping to make their big break.

Through interactive TV, iQIYI enables viewers to enter the story as the character of the talent manager, making choices according to personal preferences, expanding the storyline related to it, and transforming the “viewer” to the “player”.

“With the accelerating growth of 5G technology, the traditional film and television content structure will continue to adapt based on the new technological environment,” Liu Wenfeng, chief technology officer at iQIYI, said in a statement. “The launch of “His Smile” also marks the introduction of a standard to interactive film and television works and that is bound to change the landscape of China’s film and television industry.”

Prior to the TV show, iQIYI applied interactive functions to variety shows and trailers, such as the first domestic interactive variety show trailer for “The Big Band,” available through the iQIYI app.

“[Interactive TV]  could actually ultimately give birth to the next mass medium with huge appeal, which could mean it could be very profitable,” Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, told the Los Angeles Times.

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