“Pan-entertainment” iQIYI is no longer just a video site

At the iQIYI World Conference 2016 on Thursday and Friday in Beijing, iQIYI founder and CEO Gong Yu announced that the company will grow out of being merely an online video-streaming site and into an open platform where parties from all sides are welcome to pool resources and IP for better user experience across terminals including computers, mobile phones and cinemas.

“We’re not building an isolated or monopolistic kingdom where resources are kept within our boundaries,” said Gong. “We yearn for combined efforts from all sides to work on an open platform and together harvest the benefits of pan-entertainment.” The company changed its name from “iQIYI Video” to “iQIYI” in January.

Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQIYI (photo from iQIYI)
Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQIYI (photo from iQIYI)

Many topics were covered during the two-day conference: VR, web dramas, web variety shows, web movies, media integration, web literature, animation, and interaction between movies, games and comics. Four key concepts have been repeatedly discussed: IP, creativeness, standards, and openness.

According to Gong, iQIYI, which used to be “an IT company with media genes”, now positions itself as an IP company with thousands of IP patents and cooperation with other IP providers. On the one hand, technology IP including big data and AI are used to make personalized content recommendations possible; on the other, IP content is created by iQIYI itself, by iQIYI and its partners, or by third parties who generate user-generated content (UGC) and professional-generated content (PGC).

At the iQIYI literature conference, a team of tutors offered advice to web writers and announced that they will help discover and cultivate individual IP creators. As of May, iQIYI has accumulated over 3,500 high quality PGC partners.

Partnerships are not restricted to domestic parties. iQIYI collaborated with TV Tokyo on the animation CERBERUS, which was released on iQIYI in March and on TV Tokyo in April. The three major things that iQIYI is focusing on this year are PGC content, patented content, and self-made content.

“Good IP, despite being a scarce resource, can be developed and recreated into better IP and better products,” said Geng Xiaohua, senior VP of iQIYI.

Geng Xiaohua, senior VP of iQIYI (photo taken at the conference)
Geng Xiaohua, senior VP of iQIYI (photo taken at the conference)

Good IP content calls for creativity, and iQIYI achieves this by producing “phenomenal products”, a term coined for popular shows and programs that have a big impact on the market. iQIYI’s web shows are a good example of this. Talk show “Qipashuo”, a.k.a. “U Can U BB”, received more than 1,100 million views in the first two seasons and has pooled RMB 300 million (USD 46.11 million) of investment for its third season.

iQIYI VP Chen Wei explained that there are three major types of popular web shows: those that feature celebrities and focus on the “fan-economy”, those based on popular films and dramas, and variety shows. Chen said that among iQIYI users, about 40% are male and 60% are female, and users under age 24 amount to 65% to 75% of its total viewers.

But young people are not iQIYI’s only target group, and several shows suitable for people of all ages will be introduced to the public. An example is “Shisanyifenbei”, or “1.3 Billion Decibels”, a show on which contestants sing songs in different Chinese dialects. It will be available on iQIYI on July 8th.

Chen also shared his vision for online shows. He believes that before VR or AR can make big changes to the industry, mobile live broadcast may be the next hit because it allows young people to express themselves anytime, anywhere with video.

“Our team aspires to create ‘pure online shows’ that thrive only in the online environment, instead of being mere copies of traditional TV shows,” said Chen, who holds that online media is fundamentally different from traditional media such as TV. He believes that products tailored to online users deserve more attention.

In terms of setting standards, iQIYI set a standard for web movies to be about 60 minutes long, and is still working with partners within and outside the online entertainment industry to help set standards under which better IP and a better experience will be provided. The company plans to release 2,200 web movies in 2016.

While “big IP” was a buzzword in 2015 and is still crucial for success in the entertainment industry, a key word for 2016 seems to be “boundlessness” or “openness”. iQIYI is working to build a platform where resources and interests are shared with its partners.

With more than 10 million paid users, the company no longer relies on revenue from commercials and may consider a more varied business model with more partners joining in.

According to iResearch, China has 485 million mobile users who view online videos as of March 2016. And iQIYI, whose mobile views account for 68% of its total views, is leading the way with 210 million daily active users and an accumulated 39.2 billion viewing hours in 2015.

(Top photo screened from iQIYI’s official site)

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Ke Jin

Ke graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Master's Degree in English and has worked on projects with Ipsos MORI and SDI Media. She's particularly intrigued by China's thriving technology scene and is eager to write about this flourishing industry.

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