The video platform that laid off Mr. Zhao, iQiyi, had an abysmal quarter, shedding about $268 million. Its share costs fell 85 p.c from their excessive in 2021, reflecting buyers’ considerations that the corporate, as soon as aspiring to be China’s Netflix, might be in need of reveals that may entice extra subscribers and advertisers.

“The biggest problem for our industry is severe shortage of content supply,” iQiyi’s chief government, Gong Yu, informed analysts in November. He blamed, partly, censors’ sluggish approval. IQiyi didn’t reply to requests for remark.

(Mr. Zhao confirmed the main points in his social media account, however declined to remark additional.)

Many movie, TV and streaming tasks have been canceled or killed over considerations of more and more harsh and unpredictable censorship, mentioned individuals within the trade.

Lilian Li, a author in Beijing, mentioned Tencent and a studio working with iQiyi approached her final 12 months about making a streaming collection primarily based on one among her historical past novels. A couple of weeks later, each firms informed her that that they had determined to not proceed as a result of there was little hope of getting the censors’ approval for a historical past collection. She mentioned she acquired far fewer collaboration requests from content material suppliers in 2021.

Chinese content material creators all the time joke that they dance with shackles on, that means they attempt to fulfill the censors whereas interesting to their audiences. By now it’s clear that irrespective of the artistic concessions, there’s no assure that their tasks can see the sunshine of the day.

One of essentially the most anticipated films for the 2021 Christmas season needed to change its identify to “Fire on the Plain,” from “Moses on the Plain,” probably due to its Christianity reference. Then 4 days earlier than its launch, the manufacturing group mentioned it was postponed with out giving a proof.

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