Chinese prodco and streamer iQIYI is creating a new “branching plot” function for its youth music variety show The Rap of China 2019. Produced by iQIYI and premiering on its online streaming platform, the interactive features allow audiences to watch different storylines by choosing via a pop-up indicator. Viewers will also be able to help choose the celebrity guest to perform during the Chinese rap competition, which starts with open auditions and goes all the way to three performers competing in front of a live audience.
The 37 x 60-minute series already uses advanced tech like AI, auto-generated subtitles, face and facial expression recognition in its post-production. It also includes AI tech in casting for the series. The Rap of China first premiered in 2017, with the first episode reaching 100 million views in four hours. In just over a month, the initial episode had been viewed 1.3 billion times, according to Chinese news outlets.
iQIYI isn’t the first streamer to try its hand at this interactive, choose-your-own-adventure, style of programming. Netflix first debuted the functionality with several kids shows, including Puss in Book and Buddy Thunderstruck. It followed that initiative up with the popular Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and has since begun production on the interactive Battle Kitty based on Instagram posts by animator Matt Layzell (The Amazing World of Gumball).
But this is the first time the branching plot function is being used in a Chinese variety show, according to iQIYI. The SVOD is also using the tech in its films, TV series and marketing materials. Its first step into the space was interactive film His Smile which premiered in June and used branching plot to offer viewers 21 predetermined storyline options and 17 possible endings. iQIYI also used the interactive features for its marketing for The Rap of China 2019.