“To build a successful mobile app, you need to find out your core audience,” he said. And that audience is women who love soap operas. (ReelShort’s audience is roughly 75 percent female, Mr. Jia said.)
Mr. Jia said he wasn’t trying to compete with streamers like Netflix. If you’re free to sit on your couch for a few hours, ReelShort is probably not the app you’re opening. It’s for those in-between moments: at a bus stop, in the bathroom.
“We are using a very different business model,” Mr. Jia said, “and serving a different time.”
ReelShort is hardly the first app owned or partially owned by a Chinese company to break through in the United States. TikTok and the shopping apps Shein and Temu have been among the most downloaded in recent months in Apple’s American app store.
But for TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, this has been problematic. Lawmakers in the United States, Europe and Canada have expressed concerns that TikTok and its parent company may put people’s sensitive personal information into the hands of the Chinese government, and they have worked to restrict access to the wildly popular app. ReelShort has not faced the same kind of pressure.
Last month, ReelShort was downloaded one million times and earned $5 million in revenue in Apple’s app store, according to the data firm Sensor Tower, and it was downloaded three million times in the Google Play Store, earning $3 million in revenue there. Since November, ReelShort has ranked somewhere in the top 15 of most popular entertainment apps in both app stores on most days. (For a few days in November, ReelShort even surpassed TikTok as the most popular entertainment app in Apple’s app store.)