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2023-01-12 09:50:16

Chinese online influencers have criticized video platforms for charging excessive and overlapping fees for content streamed via television, echoing the experiences of audiences who have shared the same concern.

Dozens of online influencers expressed discontent on social media about the chaotic charging systems of TV content providers, calling for relevant authorities to regulate the malpractices in the industry.

“We could watch content directly after turning on the television in the past, but now people have to pay for separate memberships before accessing any content,” Li Jiaming, an actor-turned-influencer, told Sixth Tone. “I’ve seldom watched television in the past three years,” he added.

Chinese TV viewers enjoyed free content broadcast by state-run channels until the rise of commercial video content platforms like Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Alibaba’s Youku fostered a new market where users were willing to pay for premium content. But the pricing policies of these video platforms have triggered a backlash, with many people complaining about the sites being greedy.

“Isn’t there anyone to regulate the market? There are all different kinds of content — dramas, films, and kids’ cartoons — and they need seperate memberships. I have to pay nearly 600 yuan ($89) annually for all this different content,” a woman complained on microblogging platform Weibo.

Users of video platforms are required to pay an annual membership fee of roughly 200 yuan to access their content on mobile devices, but they need to shell out almost double the price if they want to watch the same content on other devices. Additionally, viewers say they find various advertisements in the form of banners, pop-ups, and ads intrusive.

The state-owned People’s Daily also joined the chorus of criticism, saying that the platforms “have bad table manners,” a Chinese idiom used to describe someone focused on quick profits as opposed to long-term interests. Unfair membership clauses will “harm users’ experiences” and “consume their trust for platforms,” the outlet added.

Facing intensifying competition from short video platforms, long-form video platforms are exploring additional revenue sources to cover high costs generated from producing original content and licensing them from both domestic and foreign companies. The most recent efforts of iQiyi have been to hike its membership prices, while Alibaba-backed Youku has began limiting membership logins.

“Old people and children who are not familiar with smart devices fall into such payment traps particularly easily,” warned online influencer Wu Wei in a short video.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: IC)