iQiyi’s Gong Yu on International Expansion, Original Content


Original content, 5G and AI are all key to the growth of iQiyi, Dr. Gong Yu, the streaming platform’s founder and CEO, said in his keynote today opening the ATF Leaders’ Summit in Singapore.

Held ahead of the official opening of the Asia TV Forum & Market tomorrow, the ATF Leaders’ Summit opened today with Gong’s keynote address, titled “China: Streaming the Future.”

The platform, the biggest streamer in China, marks its tenth anniversary in 2020, Gong said.

“We don’t need to go the path of Disney or CCTV,” he said. “We used a shorter period to achieve our goals.”

Listed on the Nasdaq in March, the platform has 105 million paid members as of Q3 this year, Gong said. Between free and pay, the platform streams 350 million hours a day.

Gong explained that there are three elements to the iQiyi lineup: long-form video, consisting of movies and TV series; internet celebrity video; and short-form user-generated content along the lines of YouTube. “For iQiyi the main model is long-form video,” he said, adding that there is significant room for growth in short-form video.

At launch, iQiyi followed more of a Hulu model, Gong noted. “We have evolved” since then, he said. “Some consider us as the Netflix of China. That is not accurate,” he said, explaining that iQiyi is more of a hybrid of Netflix, Hulu and YouTube business models.

What also makes iQiyi distinctive, he went on to say, is the platform’s diversity of revenue models. In addition to SVOD and AVOD revenues, iQiyi generates income from other types of content, including comics and games, as well as from merchandise. He identified nine revenue sources for iQiyi: gaming, e-commerce, advertising, membership, talent agency, virtual tipping, publishing, content distribution and IP licensing.

Original content has become increasingly important to iQiyi, Gong continued, especially as prices for licensed content continue to rise. “Original content is a must because we can control our costs and our users are much younger [than traditional TV audiences]—they don’t want to just see content moved from TV and films to our platform. They have different needs.”

More than a third of iQiyi’s content investments are in originals and this is set to rise.

For the future, Gong said two technologies will be crucial to the platform’s growth: AI and 5G. International expansion is also a key priority. The company is taking a three-pronged approach: a direct-to-consumer app; partnerships with local players, such as its deal with Astro; and licensing its technology to third-party players who want to start their own streaming services. This SaaS (software as a service) approach is in development, he said.