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

“The most important drawback for our trade is extreme scarcity of content material provide,” iQiyi’s chief govt, Gong Yu, advised analysts in November. He blamed, partially, censors’ gradual approval. IQiyi didn’t reply to requests for remark.

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

Many movie, TV and streaming tasks have been canceled or killed over issues 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 based mostly on considered one of her historical past novels. A number of weeks later, each corporations advised her that they’d 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 obtained far fewer collaboration requests from content material suppliers in 2021.

Chinese language 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 regardless of the artistic concessions, there’s no assure that their tasks can see the sunshine of the day.

One of the anticipated motion pictures for the 2021 Christmas season needed to change its title to “Hearth on the Plain,” from “Moses on the Plain,” presumably due to its Christianity reference. Then 4 days earlier than its launch, the manufacturing workforce mentioned it was postponed with out giving a proof.

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