• Andrew Collins

What is the dominant video platform in China?

What is the dominant video platform in China and where should I focus my advertising efforts?

The short answer to the first part of that question is – there is none.

Unlike in the microblogging and mobile direct chat worlds where Weibo and WeChat respectively dominate, no clear winner seems to have emerged from the video sharing/viewing platforms in an extremely dispersed ‘market’. In the past few years, the video sharing ecosystem seems to have undergone some major consolidation to create a few strong players but it can still be difficult to navigate for even the most avid of video viewers.

Who are these video viewers?

At the end of 2014, a reported 433 million Chinese users watch video content online. Through these video platforms, they can access a wider variety and breadth of selection in programming than traditional TV, to be viewed on their own time and at their personal leisure. Shorter commercial breaks in the form of pre-roll ads are a minor nuisance that can be entirely eliminated with extremely reasonable membership fees.

For the “younger” generation (arguably a very broadly defined term, which by personal observation encompasses “hip” working professionals into their 40s), online videos comprise of the majority of their TV/movie entertainment. This is readily apparent in subway trains where everyone is plugged into their headphones, not listening to music, but watching their favorite drama series on their smartphones. Further evidence of this trend is highlighted in the fact that Chinese consumers are quickly upgrading their smartphone capabilities. While smartphone sales volume has decreased by 10% vs Q2 of last year, overall value has increased by 17% over the same time period. This is no doubt a result of the increased appetite to access to more applications, and among other things – online videos. While PC users still dominate in terms of time spent watching, utilization rates on PC comprise about 71.2% of online video viewership whereas mobile usage has slowly overtaken video at close to 72% and growing. Utilization rates for other devices such as tablets PCs and TVs measure out at around 20% each.

So which video platforms are coming out on top?

By official count, whether by number of viewers or by total viewing hours, the top contenders seem to be Youku and iQIYI. LeTV users are fewer in number but tend to be a “stickier” audience, spending the most time per average user versus the other platforms.

A quick informal survey suggests that Chinese viewers have their own ideas of which platforms to seek out for specific types of niche content. For example, PPTV for live streaming sports, Tencent and iQIYI for entertainment and drama series, LeTV geared more towards domestic shows, and Youku and Tudou, the powerhouses that are all-encompassing.

What are these platforms doing to duke it out?

Besides purchasing exclusive distribution agreements to popular US, UK, Korean, and Japanese shows and/or networks, Chinese video platforms are taking a page from the likes of Netflix by creating their own content exclusively for their channels. They are heavily investing in promoting them, with the goals of attracting viewership traffic who come directly seeking out these programs. Successful examples of such smashing hits include 侣行on Youku (currently on its third season) and盗墓笔记on iQIYI. The ultimate objective is user retention- that these viewers will then linger and watch other shows while they browse their way through the selection.

In their efforts to gain the edge on first access content, these video are also going the extra mile in positioning themselves as players in Hollywood, by investing in major productions or acquiring major stake in production companies. This allows them to air pre-release trailers and teasers, or to harness the star power of the Hollywood actors in live premieres and “backstage passes” as exclusive content.

So how do you know where to go to find your desired video content?

There are apps for that. But you’d be safe to “Baidu it”, which will quickly lead you to your next entertainment adventure.

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