China’s iQIYI Streaming Service Bows First Theatrical Feature Film

China’s online media giant iQIYI announced that Spycies, a family-friendly animated film, will launch in theaters across China on Jan. 11, with subsequent releases slated in Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.

Spycies revolves around a complex action-adventure between “Spy Cat” Vladimir and “Hacker Mouse” Hector set in a modern animal kingdom.

The production team reportedly created and produced more than 40 species, over 90 animal characters, and more than 60 scenes. The movie features endangered animals such as white rhinos and snow leopards, nationally protected animals such as lorises, and extinct animals such as mammoths.

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The design of distinctive fur animations for each species in the movie was based on research of the animals’ actual physical characteristics including fur pattern, material, length, and density.

“With the superb animation effects, exciting storyline and family-friendly themes, this film will undoubtedly succeed in delighting parents and children alike,” Ya Ning, president of iQIYI Pictures, said in a statement.

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In 2018, Spycies was nominated by the Cannes International Film Festival’s “Annecy Goes Cannes” unit based on the Annecy International Animated Film Festival’s judging panel recommendation. Leveraging its premium IP across multiple entertainment formats, iQIYI is developing merchandise such as mystery toy boxes, steam eye masks, luggage cases, and snacks around the Spycies brand.

Ampere: It’s Still a YouTube/Netflix Video World

Google-owned YouTube and Netflix remain the top sources for online video and subscription VOD, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

The London-based research firm found that 63% of survey respondents streamed a video on YouTube in the past month, followed by 39% doing the same on Netflix and 27% on Facebook.

The survey is based on 41,000 online respondents across 20 markets conducted in the first quarter (ended March 31).

Ampere found YouTube ranked the No. 1 source for online video consumption in every region worldwide except the United Kingdom (BBC iPlayer) and China (iQiYi).

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Indeed, more than 60% of respondents in France and Japan watched YouTube, while less than 50% of respondents in the U.K. did so.

As expected, SVOD consumption is highest in the United States – birthplace to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Notably, American tech platform – Facebook – continues to lose video views – down 5% to 23% of respondents since the third quarter of 2016. YouTube fell 4% to 66%, while Netflix increased 15% to 37% of respondents.

“YouTube’s global dominance in this space is evident in its monthly usage,” Minal Modha, consumer research lead at Ampere, said in a statement. “The differences in viewing between the U.S. and Europe in relation to catch-up and SVOD services is interesting because it shows that SVOD providers will have to work harder in Europe to grow their [market] share as they take on traditional TV channels’ catch-up services. This could be through their catalogue, price-points or communications strategy.”

 

iQIYI Bows China’s First Interactive TV Program

Taking a page from Netflix’s playbook, iQIYI, China’s online entertainment platform, June 21 said it officially launched the erstwhile Communist country’s first domestic interactive film and television program, “His Smile.”

The program, which gives viewers 21 preset storyline options and 17 possible endings, comes a month after iQIYI announced the launch of the world’s first interactive video guideline.

Netflix, which is not available in China as a standalone service, last December became the first SVOD service offering interactive TV when it let subscribers choose an ending for original movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

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“His Smile,” produced by iQIYI and Linghe Media, tells the story of the interaction between a newcomer in the workplace, who is an assistant talent manager at a media company, and members of upcoming boyband hoping to make their big break.

Through interactive TV, iQIYI enables viewers to enter the story as the character of the talent manager, making choices according to personal preferences, expanding the storyline related to it, and transforming the “viewer” to the “player”.

“With the accelerating growth of 5G technology, the traditional film and television content structure will continue to adapt based on the new technological environment,” Liu Wenfeng, chief technology officer at iQIYI, said in a statement. “The launch of “His Smile” also marks the introduction of a standard to interactive film and television works and that is bound to change the landscape of China’s film and television industry.”

Prior to the TV show, iQIYI applied interactive functions to variety shows and trailers, such as the first domestic interactive variety show trailer for “The Big Band,” available through the iQIYI app.

“[Interactive TV]  could actually ultimately give birth to the next mass medium with huge appeal, which could mean it could be very profitable,” Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, told the Los Angeles Times.

Report: China Has 60% of Top Global SVOD Services by Subscribers

Government restrictions in China have stymied attempts by Netflix and Amazon to launch subscription streaming video service in the erstwhile Communist country with nearly 1.4 billion people.

As a result, new data from Ampere Analytics found that three domestic Chinese SVOD platforms iQIYI (backed by Baidu), Youku-Tudou (backed by Alibaba), and Tencent Video (backed by Tencent) now represent three of the top-five SVOD services globally by subscribers.

Historically, Chinese SVOD services were different to Netflix by focusing on ad-revenue. In recent years there has been a shift toward ad-free SVOD. By the end of 2018, the three leading Chinese streamers generated $8 billion of revenue — compared to Netflix’ $18 billion.

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By investing heavily in content, the three SVOD services have optimized their revenue composition. Between 2011-2018, iQIYI’s content costs grew by 140%, according to Ampere.

Subscription income was just 4% of total revenue back in 2011; by 2018, it had ballooned to more than 50% of its total revenue. Paid subscribers have privileged access to more exclusive content than the free-tier subscribers.

Investments in content have enabled the Chinese SVOD services to build large content catalogs. Youku-Tudou leads with 13,000 titles, followed by iQIYI at 10,000, and Tencent Video at 7000.

Catalog size is the main point of differentiation as the platforms offer a similar wide-range of content across TV series, movies and reality shows aimed at a mass-market audience.

Service stacking is common, as a result of the original and exclusive content on offer. iQIYI offers 250 original and 1000 exclusive titles, while Tencent Video has 330 original and 1400 exclusive titles.

Ampere says 44% of Chinese Internet users subscribe to two or three services, and 16% to all three. So, while the demographic targeting by the three giants may be consistent, the differentiation happens at the point of delivery through the content offered.

The report expects the continued growth of Chinese SVOD by the big three players as they continue to be buoyed by significant financial backing.

This has enabled iQIYI, Youku-Tudou and Tencent Video to expand rapidly, in addition to exclude smaller local players from entering the marketplace. The domination is further secured by the strict regulatory environment in China, which prevents international players such as Google operating there.

We expect the big three SVOD players in China to continue growing and reach 340 million subscriptions and $12.6 billion in total revenue by the end of 2024,”  analyst Orina Zhao said in a statement. “Investing heavily in content will continue as the main strategy to drive subscriptions and increase user retention.”

iQIYI Embedding OTT Video into Chinese-Built Ford Vehicles

With President Trump’s trade war with China making it economically unviable for Ford to export American-made vehicles to the world’s most populous country, the Detroit icon has ramped up auto production within the People’s Republic.

As a result, Chinese online video company iQiYi April 3 announced that its streaming video platform will now be offered as part of Ford’s new in-vehicle infotainment system – dubbed SYNC+, and jointly developed by Ford China and Baidu.

iQIYI Provides In-Vehicle Entertainment Solution for Ford’s New SYNC+ Infotainment System, Powered by Baidu

Starting later this year, SYNC+ will be rolled out in a range of new Chinese-built Ford and Lincoln models in China.

Synchronized with the FordPass app and featuring a range of functions, including voice assist, customized recommendations, in-vehicle online video streaming, smart navigation and vehicle-to-smart home connectivity, SYNC+ is designed to provide Chinese car consumer with an upgraded in-vehicle entertainment experience.

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Users will be able to access all copyrighted content from iQiYi’s content database. In addition, by logging into their iQIYI accounts using the car’s interface, users can access their viewing history and receive user-customized content recommendations.

“Intelligent vehicles are becoming a major part of our new way of life, as we embrace trends like connectivity, autonomy, electrification and the sharing economy,” Duan Youqiao, SVP at iQiYi, said in a statement.

Youqiao said the partnership with Ford represents iQiYi’s aim to strengthen “cooperation” with automotive industry players to better optimize in-vehicle entertainment solutions.

Indeed, the company has inked partnerships with numerous national and international companies (i.e. Google) to expand digital entertainment distribution.

“iQiYi is currently one of the largest online video sites in the world, with nearly 6 billion hours spent on its service through mobile devices each month and over 560 million monthly active users on mobile devices,” Brian Baker, senior director at Google, said in a statement last November.

 

 

‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’ Gets Streaming Deal in China

“The Late Late Show with James Corden” (especially “Carpool Karaoke”) is going where Netflix can’t: China.

CBS Studios International and Chinese online video platform iQiYiNov. 14 announced a licensing agreement for the late night talk show hosted by British comedian Corden. This is the first time the series has been made available in China, with current and past episodes available on-demand on the iQIYI platform.

Since launching in 2015 with Corden, “The Late Late Show” has generated 475 clips on YouTube with more than 1 million views each, resulting in more than 5 billion overall views and over 16 million subscribers for the show’s YouTube channel.

The show’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment – reportedly the most popular late night TV trend on social media – has more than 1.95 billion views on YouTube since its inception a year ago.

Segments featuring Adele and Justin Bieberare currently the #1 and #2 most-watched “Late Night” clips on YouTube, along with Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Stevie Wonder, Gwen Stefani, Elton John and One Direction.

A spin-off of the segment, “Carpool Karaoke: The Series,” was acquired by Apple with Corden as executive producer.

“We believe … James Corden will be well-recognized by millions of Chinese audiences,” iQIYI said in a statement.

Armando Nuñez, CEO of  CBS Global Distribution Group, said that with mobile viewing dominate among iQIYI’s subscriber base, “inventive content and viral moments of ‘The Late Late Show’” are well-suited for the platform.

“It’s exciting to join forces with iQIYI to bring the supreme talent of James Corden and the star power of his guests to Chinese audiences,” said Nuñez.

 

 

 

China Streaming Video Service iQiYi Opens First On-Demand Movie Theater

Chinese online video platform iQiYi has launched what it claims is the first on-demand movie theater in the world.

Dubbed “China’s Netflix,” iQiYi May 20 officially opened the “Yuke” on-demand movie theater in Zhongshan, Guangdong, enabling consumers to select a movie online and watch it at a Yuke theater. The six-seat theaters include Dolby audio, reclined seating and other enhanced features not available in the typical Chinese household.

China is one of the largest film production countries in the world generating nearly a thousand films annually. In 2017, a total of 970 films were produced, yet only 487 of them were played in theaters, according to iQiYi. As the national income level continues to rise in China, consumer demand for cinema viewing is rising.

The company – which is owned by China’s online search giant Baidu and launched an IPO on Wall Street earlier this year – said it working to bring Yuke movie theaters to first- and second-tier cities throughout China.

“The development of on-demand movie theaters poses an exciting opportunity to increase the strength and overall scale of China’s film industry,” Yang Xianghua, SVP at iQiYi, said in a statement. “[We] will take advantage of our strong brand awareness, massive user base, popular content and advanced technology to contribute to the growth of this booming market and extend our premium viewing experience to offline consumers.”

At the end of March, iQiYi had 61.3 million subscribers. Going forward, iQiYi said it would combine online and offline subscriber bases to integrate retail services and offline consumption with related merchandise for purchase in cinemas.

Chinese Internet Giant Baidu Wants to be Like Netflix

Netflix is the world’s biggest subscription streaming video force. China is the largest (government controlled) untapped SVOD market.

After failing to launch standalone service, Netflix last April inked a content license agreement with iQIYI, a Chinese streaming video unit of Baidu, for programing, including “Stranger Things” and “House of Cards,” among others.

Now, the multinational Baidu, which operates search engines and other Internet-related platforms in China, wants to up original content offerings.

Baidu claims iQIYI has more than 400 million users – nearly four times Netflix’s global subscriber base. Last year it raised more than $1.5 billion selling bonds to investors.

Other Chinse SVOD players include Sohu, Leshi, Tencent and Youku Tudou, which is owned by ecommerce behemoth Alibaba.

In an interview with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ya-Qin Zhang, president of Baidu, suggested iQIYI would significantly increase its original content portfolio.

“Our head of content is working hard to bring more content to China and to produce more content,” Zhang said. “You’ll see a lot more exciting deals.”

Whether this includes more programing from Netflix or other third-party sources remains to be seen.