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iQiyi’s vice-president for international business on the platform’s plans for conquest

iQiyi is attempting to bolster its position in SEA through commercial partnerships.

As competition between the BAT intensifies, iQiyi’s vice-president of international business tells The Drum about the company’s plans to compete in South East Asia.

As competition between China’s platform giants becomes more intense, a new growth market beyond China is necessary for major streaming platforms like Baidu’s iQiyi, Tencent Video, and Alibaba’s Youku, which occupies over 80% of market share in mainland China, to maintain growth.

This means South East Asia (SEA) has become the battleground for these platforms. IQiyi hired former Netflix executive and former Singapore diplomat Kuek Yu-Chuang as its vice president for international business for its SEA expansion, and picked out agency partners to build brand awareness in SEA markets.

“At its core, iQiyi’s international’s strategy is to be the home for beloved Asian content. Our first focus is on building a great slate of content – both original as well as licensed. At iQiyi, we have already been quite successful establishing several niches, including period costume dramas like Story of Yanxi Palace; crime thrillers like The Bad Kids; as well as our massively popular variety shows like Youth With You,” Kuek says.

“We are also expanding into more international content with high quality Korean shows like A&E’s Backstreet Rookie and Kakao M’s Love Revolution, as well as great local shows such as 7 Hari Mencintaiku from Malaysia and The Little Nonya from Singapore.”

Kuek’s immediate priority is building strong partnerships, starting with SEA, with a view to expand even farther globally.

He says given iQiyi’s technology background and engineering knowhow, and its reputation among consumers, the company could move into the B2B space, offering its streaming tech as a service to entertainment companies or broadcasters aiming to enter the space but avoid the significant barriers to entry.

“We believe that such reach, combined with our willingness to customize differentiated advertising solutions for our clients, will make us a meaningful new entrant into the ecosystem. There are also many innovative sponsorship models that we have experimented in China before, that have not yet been attempted at such scale in South East Asia. We are hoping to delight new customers with these offerings.”

He adds: “We believe there is much potential for our brand, content, and technology. So, we hope to find like-minded partners who can help us bring this vision to life.”

While iQiyi has big plans for SEA, its rivals are also making moves. Tencent bought out struggling Malaysia-based over-the-top (OTT) platform Iflix and through its subsidiary Tencent Video, launched its WeTV platform in Thailand and Vietnam, featuring members from Malaysia and Thailand in their latest variety show Chuang 2020, which has drawn great attention from audiences across the region.

Kuek acknowledges that iQIYI’s international expansion is “definitely happening at an interesting time”. He says amid the surging interest in streaming entertainment services around the world, global players continue to garner major attention while more local and regional players seek to establish themselves as homegrown heroes.

“iQiyi International’s ambitions straddles these two arenas - simultaneously seeking to be a truly global service, while retaining our credibility as an entertainment leader born-and-bred in Asia,” he says.

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