Tencent, Baidu invest in state media-backed Pear Video amid content crackdown

Pear Video, which counts People’s Daily publicly traded unit as an early investor, raised 617 million yuan (US$98.2 million) in its Series A funding round, led by Tencent and Baidu.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 6:31am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 7:03am

Chinese tech giants Tencent and Baidu have invested in Pear Video, an online short video platform that counts the listed unit of People’s Daily as a shareholder, amid a crackdown on internet content. 

Pear Video raised 617 million yuan (US$98.2 million) in its Series A financing round, led by Tencent and Baidu, and will use the funds to build its content production network and improve its business model, according to the Shanghai-based company. Tencent and Baidu confirmed the investment, but deferred requests for comment to Pear Video., whose largest shareholders are the People’s Daily and Global Times, is an early investor in Pear Video, which was founded in 2016 by media veteran Qiu Bing, formerly the CEO of Chinese online media outlet, The Paper. 

The investment comes amid China’s ongoing crackdown on lowbrow online content. Kuaishou, one of China’s most popular live-streaming apps, was ordered by the Chinese media regulator to remove content that was “vulgar, violent, gory, pornographic and harmful” from its sites last week. 

Chinese media regulator clamps down on Toutiao news site for posting vulgar content

Short video sites Huoshan and Douyin, operated by Beijing Bytedance Technology, were criticised for featuring inappropriate content from underage users, and Douyin was closed temporarily to upgrade its content policing systems. Bytedance’s news aggregation app, Jinri Toutiao, was ordered to shut down Neihan Duanzi, a popular content account that featured videos like people dropping flies into other people’s food.

Pear Video was ordered to clean up its act by Beijing authorities in February 2017, for releasing so-called exclusive news content without obtaining licenses for internet news services. The platform has since shifted its focus to videos that cover the life and thoughts of China’s younger generation, Qiu said in a statement responding to the clean-up. 

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The platform now produces 1,500 short videos each day on topics including society, lifestyle, technology and more, attracting one billion daily views, according to the company. 

Pear Video is among the latest investments by Shenzhen-based Tencent in the video field. 

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Asia's most valuable company by market cap has pledged to “aggressively” step up its investment in video content, company president Martin Lau said on an earnings conference call in March. The company recently invested a total of US$1 billion in Chinese live-streaming sites Douyu and Huya.

Tencent Video, the company’s video unit, had 62.6 million paying subscribers as of the end of February, compared with 43 million in September. Its biggest competitor, Baidu Inc.-backed iQiyi, added about 10 million paying customers in the first two months of this year to reach 60.1 million. iQiyi went public on Nasdaq in March.

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Alibaba, the parent company of the South China Morning Post, operates Youku Tudou, which competes with Tencent Video and iQiyi.