Free streaming days over

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-21 18:43:01

Exclusive content drives paid membership on Chinese sites

Photo: CFP

The market for paid content is growing rapidly in China. From early 2014 to early 2015, the market size of paid online video content grew from 210 million yuan ($33million) to 590 million, an annual growth rate of 178.1 percent, according to the first White Paper on the Individual Paid Network Video Industry published recently.

Published by iQiyi the findings are based on publicly available data on all streaming sites, and data provided by research organizations like iResearch and CNNIC.

More users are willing to pay for online content, the research found. Among all Chinese new media users, 30.3 percent are willing to pay for quality content online, and those willing to pay for films, TV series, and online content amount to 53.4 percent, 26.8 percent, 26.2 percent respectively, according to's 2015 China New Online Media Users Report.

Streaming sites have become a major way for Chinese audiences to view video content, and the sites never stop trying to expand their paid services. But with domestic users already used to watching online content without cost for years, cultivating the habit to pay is a long and arduous process.

However, from the released data, it seems the paid online content has a promising future.

Cultivating a culture

Streaming sites have brought more creative, exclusive and original content to enhance their offerings and gradually encourage more users to pay for their service.

At the same time, the nationwide anti-piracy campaign to protect copyright, which has cracked down on many sites over the last few years, is a boost for visitors changing to streaming sites. The high resolution copyright protected content on streaming sites can be viewed anywhere with different devices and users are already used to watching the latest hit shows on them.

IQiyi is one of the leading streaming sites in China. It had more than 5 million paid members in June. IQiyi's VIP services include movies, documentaries, educational programs, TV series and live feeds of concerts. It cooperates with several film companies from both domestic and overseas to enlarge its movie base. It offers about 3,000 movies from six different Hollywood companies.

In June, iQiyi released the first subscription only membership TV series, The Lost Tomb, a hit attention-drawing TV adaptation of a popular Chinese novel. It further expanded its paid services through several hit online dramas like Evil Minds. The Legend of S, also a subscription only TV series, was even broadcast online before it was released to TV stations.

At a press conference on October 14, iQiyi announced that they will invest more than 50 percent of their capital and resources in VIP services in 2016 to bring more online dramas that are exclusively for paid members. It also signed up three hit idols, Huang Bo, Angelababy and Yang Yang to endorse their VIP services.

Tencent Video, had all the hit TV series of the year and 90 percent of all the hit variety shows, like Voice of China, according to an article on With several original shows and dramas, it has become a leading streaming site in China too.

Tencent bought more exclusive content to attract paid members after attracting a substantial amount of users. In 2013, it cooperated with influential Hollywood film studios like Warner Bros, Universal Pictures, Lionsgate Films, and Miramax Films to offer "Hollywood VIP" services on its platform, where Chinese audiences are able to view selected Hollywood films exclusively. It also cooperated with HBO and Warner Bros in 2014 to create a platform of American TV series, exclusively broadcast works like the Game of Thrones.

Besides bringing exclusive content, it also focuses on improving the user experience by offering services such as 1080p high resolution images, Chinese subtitles or dubbing, ad-free services and multiple events for members.

Fans will pay

Fans are a force that shouldn't be underestimated. They carry massive commercial value.

The Lost Tomb and The Legend of S are two TV shows featuring many hot young actors and actresses, like Li Yifeng and Yang Yang, William Chan and Zhao Liying. When The Lost Tomb was released online in June, iQiyi witnessed an explosive growth in VIP members. Within the first hour of its being released online, The Legend of S had 2.73 million users watching it, surpassing the record set by The Lost Tomb on it opening day by 1.5 times.

"This is the powerful effect of fans… now the typhoon is arriving, the whole market is growing rapidly, what we need to do is to constantly optimize fans' user experience," said iQiyi marketing officer, Wang Xiangjun, according to Shanghai Morning Post.

Tencent Video has started a live program Bring you to TA, which allows fans to interact with celebrities and even send virtual gifts. When Chinese actress Yang Mi was on the show last Christmas, more than 20 million users were watching.

Live feed concerts are another event that have the potential to change the industry. Singer Wang Feng and Taiwan singer A Mei gave live feed concerts online last August. Tencent Video also has a Live Music section that focuses on the live feed concerts business.

Also in the report

All overseas content streaming sites like Netflix require payment. But it's different on Chinese streaming sites. Movies are the main content being paid before. It was not until 2015 that paid content was expanded to include exclusive dramas and concerts.

According to the China New Media Users Report, the majority of new media users are between 26-35, those who were born in the 80s, and account for 49.5 percent of the users. iResearch believes this is because the "post 80s generation" grew up witnessing the rapid development of the Internet and are more likely to rely on it. Also, this group is more financially independent and can afford more electronic devices.

A total of 49.2 percent of all users prefer to pay monthly, the report said.

Films, fictional and educational resources are the three main online materials that users are willing to pay for.

Global Times

Posted in: TV

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