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Visitors gather at a display booth for Chinese technology firm Tencent at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing in 2020. Photo: AP

Tencent is paying users to try its new classic TV streaming app in effort to quickly grow elderly, rural user base

  • Pianduoduo features ad-free on-demand streaming of popular classic Chinese TV shows
  • China’s lower-tier and remote rural areas have become major targets for Big Tech looking for new areas of growth
Tencent Holdings, China’s gaming, social media, and entertainment king, has launched a new video platform that rewards users for watching videos, in a move to expand its presence among China’s vast elderly and rural populations.
Pianduoduo, which literally means “lots of videos” in Chinese, was recently launched across application stores in China. A check on Wednesday showed that the app has been download over 20,000 times on Huawei’s app store.

Offering entire seasons of popular classic TV series ad-free, including mythical action-adventure Journey to West, imperial court drama My Fair Princess, and historical spy thriller Sparrow, Pianduoduo gives users digital coins in exchange for watching.

Capped at 3,600 coins per day, for a total monetary value of 0.2 yuan, users can earn 60 coins for every minute they watch. The app, with a very simple design and layout, does not explicitly state the cap until the user reaches the maximum earnings for the day.

Tencent did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

“If [users] can get paid for watching something they‘d probably watch anyway, it will have widespread appeal,” said Mark Tanner, managing director of Shanghai-based consultancy China Skinny. “But if it isn‘t [sticky], the viewers will leave the minute the cash stops.”


Paying users is an increasingly common tactic among China’s internet companies to quickly grow their user base, especially those who are less tech-savvy and have more free time like the elderly and rural.

“This is a proven tactic of tech companies to attract new customers, especially elderly or those from rural areas,” said independent internet industry commentator Zhang Dingding. “But these customers have lower loyalty and weaker purchasing power, so the vast number of users do not lead to strong commercial abilities.”

Interior view of the headquarters building of Tencent in Shenzhen city, south China's Guangdong province. Photo: AFP

Reactions on social media were muted. Those that did post about the new app were mostly sceptical.

“Does it mean ‘lots of lies?’”, one user asked on social media platform Weibo, a pun on homophones ‘lie’ and ‘video’ in Mandarin Chinese.

“Paying users cash is a familiar gimmick,” said another user. “Will [the app] start charging membership fees after two months?”


The launch of Pianduoduo highlights China’s Big Tech increasing focus on underserved markets in the quest for new growth as well as Tencent’s efforts to catch up in video.

China’s most recent national census data shows that the country’s elderly population aged 60 or older grew 18.7 per cent from 2010. More than 100 million Chinese consumers aged above 50 use the mobile internet, spending an average of 136 hours a month on their smart devices, QuestMobile said in a July survey.
Home to around 1 billion people, so-called “sinking markets”, lower-tier cities and remote rural areas, represent growing pools of untapped spending as mobile internet penetration continues to rise.


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The Chinese grandpa who has cleared 300 video games
Amid rising competition from upstarts like Kuaishou and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, Tencent is putting more attention on its video offerings.
Earlier this year, Tencent Video, the company’s on-demand streaming service, and short video app Weishi, were combined into one platform. The company’s social network super app, WeChat, also plans to focus more on video, its creator said in January.

“Video expression will be a major theme for the next 10 years of content generation,” Alan Zhang told the audience at WeChat’s 2021 annual developer conference.