iQIYI Inc., an online entertainment service in China, recently launched the ‘Watch Party’ feature on its streaming platform. By synchronising video playback among groups, Watch Party allows iQIYI users to have the experience of watching movies, dramas, variety shows and anime with friends without having to be with them in the same room. To experience the personalised, interactive viewing experience that Watch Party provides, users simply open iQIYI’s app and select “Watch with Friends” to get an invitation link, which can be shared with other users.
The Watch Party mode allows up to ten users to be in a joined session and stream the same content at a time, where they could also send each other voice messages in the chatroom to share their reactions and thoughts in real-time. While the host controls the video playback, each user has control over the volume of their own voice and that of the content. Ultimately, Watch Party enables iQIYI users to have a communal yet personalised streaming experience and thereby become even more engaged with the content.
The popularity and success of Watch Party since its launch point to the users’ desire for social interaction even while consuming content. Nowadays, content consumption is more than just watching videos. On the one hand, users are eager to interact with video content and want tailored content that meets their aesthetic. On the other hand, they also want to connect their thoughts with others, be it strangers, friends, or family. In short, even in streaming, the younger generation craves the opportunity for self-express and connection.
According to the “Report on the Development of China’s Internet Audio-and-video Industry (2021),” which examined the behaviour of online audiovisual content users, nearly 30 percent of users search for news related to the drama series they watch. The report also found that younger users with a higher level of education are more likely to make purchases and speak with their friends as they stream content.
In response to this emerging trend, Watch Party is the latest in a long line of innovative interactive features iQIYI rolled out. Previously, the rolling out of the AI radar ‘Qiguan’ enables users to identify any unfamiliar character or music they encounter with the click of a button, and ‘Revolving Bullet Comments’ allows viewers to further engage with the content.
As users become more deeply engaged with content, they become more than just viewers, and, at the same time, iQIYI becomes more than just a content provider. Thanks to the Company’s groundbreaking technology, users can switch between different modes of content viewing and even participate in the shaping of the content by deciding how a story would unfold.
For example, at ‘iQIYI Shout out for Love Gala 2021’, online viewers were able to control a range of aspects of the show including the program order, choice of the artist, and viewing angles, etc. Viewers embraced this flexibility with great enthusiasm and took advantage of these innovative features to personalise and improve their own viewing experience. For instance, 90 percent of users switched the screen an average of 29 times using the innovative ‘four-in-one’ screen feature.
Another case in point was ‘X-City’, the immersive extended reality (XR) concert held in March of this year for the Chinese girl group THE9. X-City marked the first time that cinematic class LED stage with photorealistic virtual production and XR-powered live broadcast technologies were combined for the production of a concert. To offer a more immersive experience, the event also offered other interactive elements, such as virtual seats, virtual avatars, on-site screen interaction, and virtual light sticks for real-time interaction. Going forward, iQIYI is committed to further leveraging its technical prowess to add new features that will enhance the viewing experience of its users.