Online video

iQiyi TV: Chinese video streaming site expands into self-produced content

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2015, 11:05am

Online video provider iQiyi said on Tuesday that its mobile app has become the most popular free app on the China Apple App Store, with recent growth driven by iQiyi's self-produced content. The company is backed by China’s top search engine Baidu.

iQiyi launched The Lost Tomb last month, a TV drama it produced itself that has gone viral online since the company began issuing weekly instalments. Last weekend, it released the full series to paid subscribers only. 

This caused a surge in downloads of the app as well as in the number of requests to buy the subscription service, the company said.

The full series attracted over 160 million clicks in the first five minutes, it said in a press release.

"Providing access to premium online TV content to paid subscribers is a promising new frontier in China’s online-video industry,” said Yu Gong, founder and CEO of iQiyi.

iQiyi plans to turn out at least 30 dramas with a total of 500 episodes this year, the company said.

Other major online video providers in China are also shifting over to original content.

Youku Tudou, which enjoys a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, will invest 600 million yuan (US$96.6 million) to produce its own dramas this year, the company said at an event in June. This is double its investment in 2014.

Tencent, one of China’s largest internet companies, has produced nearly a dozen reality and talk shows on its online video site, Tencent Video. It typically invests over 100 million yuan per show.

Sohu Video, one of China’s major online video platforms, said it plans to produce 200 episodes, including Korean dramas.

All of the video platforms have websites and mobile apps, and the number of mobile users is still increasing. 

As of this year, 71.9 per cent of viewers watch video on their smartphone, with the remainder preferring to use their personal computer or television, according to a report by China Internet Network Information centre.

Free content has always been attractive to video fans in China, but some providers are trying a different tack.

Alibaba is setting up a new service this summer that it sees as China’s answer to HBO and Netflix. The new service is called TBO, for Tmall Box Office. Some 90 per cent of the content will not be free.

iQiyi has been busy looking into how the subscription model can work in China, including for original and exclusive videos. It saw its number of paid subscribers climb to 5 million in June.