Journalism Tech

Steamy Romances and Vampires: The Chinese-Backed App Appealing to American Moms

That’s the headline on my newest story, which I wrote with my colleague Rachel Liang. It was out Tuesday.

It begins: <– 🎁 Gift link

Joey Jia witnessed the 2020 implosion of short-form video app Quibi and thought: I can do better.

Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg’s high-profile but short-lived startup charged users $4.99 a month for slick content meant to appeal to a wide user base. Jia, a veteran of Chinese tech companies, says he saw a market in the U.S. for a cheaper streaming app with a narrower target audience.

Last year, Jia launched ReelShort targeting women, especially stay-at-home moms between the ages of 18 and 45, who he says love romance and fantasy stories. It draws on the success of similar apps in his native China, featuring dramas with episodes that last about a minute, compared with Quibi’s five to 10 minutes.

ReelShort specializes in bingeable, steamy romances, tangled family dramas, handsome billionaires, beautiful women—and vampires and werewolves. The actors are mostly Western, and the dialogue is in English.

The formula is gaining traction with American consumers. The app briefly surpassed ByteDance’s TikTok as the most downloaded entertainment app in Apple’s App Store last month. Of the 16 million global downloads the app has garnered so far, some 4.8 million are in the U.S., making it the company’s biggest market, according to mobile data and analytics provider More than 60% of the firm’s revenue comes from the U.S., according to Jia.

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