By Evan DeSimone
Chinese online video service iQIYI is turning up the heat on original content with a commitment to buy or produce 40 new original shows in 2016.
In an effort to offer more value its subscribers, the streamer plans to spend half of its annual budget buying or producing original TV and movies. It’s a major financial commitment by iQIYI that underscores how intensely competitive the Chinese streaming video spaces has become in recent years. While western competitors like Netflix have struggled to crack the heavily regulated Chinese market, local streaming outlets have been duking it out in the content trenches.
A subsidiary of Chinese web giant Baidu, iQIYI, recently inked a deal with Lionsgate to become the exclusive Chinese streaming home of western blockbusters such as “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent.” Competitor Youku Tudou inked a similar content licensing pact with Paramount to stream 100 of that studio’s top titles, while rival Tencent scooped up streaming rights for “Star Wars.” Not be left out, Alibaba owned T-Mall Box Office signed a multi-year distribution deal with NBCUniversal early last month.
The company has yet to reveal what sort of content will comprise the 40 promised new shows. While the streamer does plan to make local original content as well as buy direct form Hollywood, it’s not yet clear how many of the 40 promised shows will be produced in-house.
iQIYI’s existing video service boosts 500 million monthly users, but only about 5 million paying subscribers. As free video platforms increasingly transition to SVOD or freeimum business models, iQIYI is hoping to boost its subscriber base by offering new quality content in bulk.
While the commitment to 40 shows is ambitious, this isn’t iQIYI’s first foray into original production. Its original series “Notes Of Raiders” bowed on the platform last summer to substantial viewership. A second original, “Shu Shan Zhan Ji,” will premiere on iQIYI subscribers before making its linear debut on Chinese cable TV later next year.