Online video platform iQiyi, which issued its Nasdaq IPO to raise US$2.25 billion in March, plans to establish a digital entertainment empire through business expansion and technology upgrades, including VR (virtual reality) and AI (artificial intelligence) technologies, the company said today in Beijing.
iQiyi, dubbed China's Netflix, with Baidu Inc as a major shareholder, will become a "garden" covering digital entertainment services including paid subscription, gaming, e-commerce, advertising and publishing business, as opposed to being just having an "apple tree," Gong Yu, chief executive of iQiyi, told the conference.
It's the first conference held by iQiyi since its debut on Nasdaq in March. The platform has more than 60 million paid subscribers and covers 600 million independent devices via mobile applications.
iQiyi announced cooperation with HTC and Digital Domain to expand into the VR sector, enabling the unleashing of "human imagination from the limitations of reality".
The major VR applications include video viewing and games, which makes iQiyi the most popular VR-featured application in China, Alvin Wang Graylin, HTC China president, told the conference.
Digital Domain, which plans to open 100 to 120 VR experience centers in China in 2018, will offer users iQiyi's VR content in the centers.
AI is used in online drama production, user habit analysis, and marketing and resource purchase processes of iQiyi, which helps the company to improve efficiency and better serve audiences, Gong said.
iQiyi also plans to establish a new fund of 100 million yuan (US$15.9 million) to support online drama producers, especially young artists.
In 2017, China's online film revenue hit 2 billion yuan, compared with 30 billion yuan for cinema box office. This highlights the huge potential of online drama as users spend more time on mobile devices, industry officials told the conference.
iQiyi's share price closed at US$20.3 on the Nasdaq on Thursday, about 10 percent higher than the IPO price of US$18.
China's top three online video firms include Baidu-invested iQiyi, Alibaba-invested Youku Tudou, and Tencent's online video business.
Online video services are the darling of investors due to their growth potential during China's new round of consumption upgrade.
Some of iQiyi's dramas have been distributed overseas through Netflix.