Baidu seeks to play catch up in mobile app race with bet on world's most-watched TV show
- Baidu will be exclusive ‘red packet’ partner of state broadcaster CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala
- The Gala drew more than one billion viewers last year
Baidu is looking to attract more users to its flagship mobile app by partnering with the world’s most-watched TV show through the coming Lunar New Year holiday, as the Chinese search engine operator seeks to catch up to its competitors Tencent and Alibaba Group.
Baidu will be the exclusive “red packet” partner of state broadcaster China Central Television’s (CCTV) Spring Festival Gala, the Beijing-based company said on Thursday. Since 1983, viewing at least part of the Gala has been a national tradition. Last year’s show drew more than one billion viewers and the programme is recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world's most watched TV programme.
Giving “red packets” or hongbao, is a traditional practice of giving cash in red paper envelopes (red because Chinese consider the colour to be auspicious) that has increasingly moved online with the ease of smartphone-based mobile payments. Many companies in China routinely hold “red packet” promotions, giving out cash or rebates that consumers can then “snatch” through mobile apps.
Baidu is stepping up its efforts to become an everyday app by powering its flagship search app with artificial intelligence. The goal is to make it smarter in terms of coming up with better search results and delivering news tailored to the individual’s interests.
The Baidu App has lagged behind Tencent’s WeChat with its 1 billion daily active users, and Alibaba Group’s ecosystem of mobile apps led by Taobao and Tmall. AI-powered recommendations are also being employed by companies such as Bytedance’s Toutiao, whose AI-driven news feed has helped make it China’s most popular news app.
The number of people who use Baidu App daily reached a high of 161 million in August and averaged 151 million in September 2018, increasing 19 per cent from a year earlier.
By becoming the exclusive “red packet” partner with the Spring Festival Gala, Baidu will be the only means by which people can “snatch” the digital cash gifts during the programme. There will be a record-breaking amount of cash being distributed this year through the virtual hongbaos, Baidu said in a post on its official WeChat account, without disclosing the size of the investment.
Baidu’s red envelope campaign will last eight days starting from January 28, with the peak expected on February 4 during the live broadcast of the Spring Festival Gala. Baidu users will have chances to get red envelopes by following the instructions of TV hosts, including shaking their smartphones and searching via Baidu App.
Other Chinese tech giants including Alibaba, which owns the Post, and Tencent have teamed up with the CCTV programme in past years to promote their mobile payment services.
On Thursday, Baidu chief executive officer Robin Li Yanhong announced the company’s vision of becoming a world-class high tech firm in an internal letter. Baidu will seek to not only understand its users but also provide products that enable people’s growth, according to Li.