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China technology

ByteDance to enter China’s long-form streaming video market, challenging iQiyi, Tencent Video

The Beijing-based start-up is developing new film and television drama segments for its Xigua Video app

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 6:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 9:01am

Beijing ByteDance Technology, operator of popular news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and short video app Tik Tok, plans to bring long-form content in China’s streaming video market and compete head-to-head with industry leaders iQiyi, Tencent Video and Youku Tudou.

The fast-growing start-up is developing new film and television drama segments for its Xigua Video app, which will be launched either at the end of this year or early next year, according to people familiar with the initiative.

It plans to buy the exclusive digital rights for selected films and TV shows, as well as finance the development of a number of original film and TV projects and was looking at a paid subscription business model, said the people who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

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Founded in 2012, ByteDance currently runs several short video apps, the most popular of which are Douyin and Xigua.

Known as Tik Tok outside China, Douyin provides clips shorter than 15 seconds and has become the go-to short video platform for China’s Generation Z. Every video on the Xigua platform runs for less than five minutes.

A spokeswoman for ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plan to build a streaming video service with long-form content has come at a time when ByteDance is said to be looking to raise as much as US$3 billion in a new funding round.

Watch: popular video app Tik Tok raises concerns about children’s privacy

The company was reported to have met with potential investors for financing that could value the Beijing-based start-up at around US$75 billion, according to a Reuters report last month, citing a source familiar with the matter. The talks have not been finalised and the amount and valuation could still change, the source said.

ByteDance said to seek up to US$3 billion in new funding round, mostly targeting US investors

With that valuation, ByteDance would become the world’s most valuable start-up, the report said. The firm would eclipse Uber Technologies, valued at US$68 billion, and Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing at US$56 billion, according to CB Insights data.

ByteDance’s foray into China’s online streaming video market would see the start-up compete in a market dominated by three major players – iQiyi, Tencent Video and Youku Tudou.

Watch: China’s Netflix, iQiyi, aims to build a Disney-scale entertainment empire in 20 years

Those three players also happen to be controlled, respectively, by three of China’s biggest internet companies: Baidu, Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding, according to the China Internet Report co-authored by the South China Morning Post, its tech news site Abacus and San Francisco-based venture capital firm 500 Startups. Alibaba is the parent company of the Post.

The stakes are high for those players because China has become a market where consumers are increasingly paying for online video content, a shift from the days of pirated downloads.

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One out of eight Chinese internet video users now pay for online content and services, according to iResearch, marking a big change from years ago when most consumers favoured films on pirated VCDs and DVDs and those found on peer-to-peer movie-sharing sites.

That shift, driven by a demographic change with the coming of age of the more online-savvy millennial generation, has contributed to the explosive growth in paying subscribers, with iResearch projecting the market will triple in size to 73 billion yuan in the five years through 2022.

Compared with the US, China still has plenty of room to grow in a country with a population of about 1.4 billion and 802 million internet users as of June 30.