Net­flix wannabes vie for view­ers


Tomb-raid­ing sol­diers and im­pe­rial courtvil­lains are lead­ingth­e­lat­est­bat­tle­front forChina’s internet gi­ants, which are pour­ing bil­lions of dol­lars into newdig­i­tal­con­tent­tocre­atethe na­tion’s answer toNet­flix Inc.

Stream­ing plat­forms from Baidu Inc, Alibaba GroupHold­ing Ltd and Ten­cent Hold­ings Lt­darea­mong­morethanadozen vy­ing for dom­i­nance in an in­dus­try fore­cast to ex­pand al­most 30 per cent a year through 2020.

Whereas Youtube-style videos and the odd pi­rated TV episode were once enough to draw web view­ers, they’re now seek­ing — and will­ing to pay up to 19.8 yuan ($2.95) a month to watch— morec­om­pelling char­ac­ters on orig­i­nal, pro­fes­sion­ally made TVand movies.

The drive for con­tent has re­sulted in an ex­pen­sive – and so far, un­prof­itable -- cre­ative show­down for internet com­pa­nies. They have bought stu­dios, dis­tri­bu­tion rights and elab­o­rate scripts to lure stream­ing cus­tomers who IHS Markit pre­dicts will spend 16 bil­lion yuan an­nu­ally on sub­scrip­tion fees by 2020.

Alibaba ratch­eted up the com­pe­ti­tion re­cently, with founder Jack Ma and Steven Spiel­berg an­nounc­ing that their­com­pa­nieswill jointly pro­duce and fi­nance films, tap­ping what Ma de­scribed as “an in­creas­ing de­mand for pre­mi­um­global con­tent” among Chi­nese con­sumers.

Baidu’s 80.5 per­cent-owned on­line video plat­form, iQiyi, will spend at least 10 bil­lion yuan on con­tent next year.

“My boss al­ways says there is no limit,” Emily Dai, who runs the team pro­duc­ing iQiyi’s in-house­shows, said­i­nan­in­ter­view. “Every year we do at least 30 pro­grams. So, as long as we can find good pro­grams, we­can fund them all.”

IQiyi is fo­cused on buy­ing and pro­duc­ing internet TV shows that can gen­er­ate hun­dreds of mil­lions of views.

amount China’s web users are will­ing to pay a month to watch orig­i­nal, pro­fes­sion­ally made con­tent

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