Chinese online video major iQiyi is committing around half of next year’s programming budget to purchase or develop 40 new shows for paying subscribers, the latest in a series of moves to bolster its premium offering.
The pledge also reflects an ongoing rebalancing of iQiyi’s content budget towards exclusive and self-produced content, prompting more experimentation around windowing and monetization.
Some of the new shows will remain exclusive to the online platform, following the lead of iQiyi’s self-produced hit adventure series Notes Of Tomb Raiders, which was released in June.
Others however will be shown on TV in a later window, a licensing model iQiyi is currently trialing with another popular action series, Shu Shan Zhan Ji (The Legend of Zu). Last month, the site announced that it had bought exclusive rights to stream the program several months ahead of its TV broadcast.
It’s all part of a broader subscription revenue push by iQiyi, following a “long-term” SVOD and TVOD pact with Lionsgate in October, including a major promotional commitment from iQiyi, as well as a three-year SVOD deal for 800 movies from Paramount in July.
This week, the company also announced that it has enlisted three film stars – Yang Yang, Angelababy and Huang Bo – to spearhead a marketing push for its paid services.
“We are confident that subscription revenue will become a major revenue stream for iQiyi, and we will continue to invest to provide the best premium content,” says iQiyi SVP, Xianghua Yang.
iQiyi charges RMB19.8 (US$3.2) a month or RMB198 a year to access its paid content.
The video site has accumulated more than five million active paying subs, more than direct online video rivals such as Youku Tudou and Tencent, although all the major streaming players have much larger audiences, numbering in the hundreds of millions, for their free content.
These players are also facing increasing competition for premium content and paying subs from internet TV services, delivered via smart TVs and set-top boxes, provided by tech companies such as LeTV as well as established TV companies such as Shanghai Oriental Pearl, also known as BesTV, and Wasu Media.
While these can also include access to online video services such as iQiyi, people need to subscribe to a separate service to access them.
China’s total OTT video market, including internet TV services, will nudge US$5 billion in revenue this year, according to estimates from Media Partners Asia (MPA).