CANNES — Charles Zhang, chairman and CEO of leading Chinese Internet firm, Sohu.com, spoke about Chinese audiences’ appetite for international programs, the surge in paid content and the decline in piracy during his keynote address on Tuesday at Mipcom.
“Since 2010, Sohu has been thriving with TV dramas — first with domestic dramas first and we also started buying shows internationally. Hollywood (certainly felt) the impact as we started spending money on American content,” said Zhang.
In spite of its “policies and regulations (…) the overall situation is very positive in China,” argued Zhang. “With the explosion of paid content the future is bright. For the younger generation, the world is very flat and they really enjoy quality international content so the 700 Internet users are really eager to see great content worldwide.”
Since January, Sohu has begun airing U.S. comedy show “Saturday Night Live” on its Sohu Video platform. Sohu.com also recently closed a deal with BBC Worldwide to screen the BBC’s factual and drama content (including “Mad Dog,” “Ripper Street,” “Sinbad”) VoD users.
The major boost for paid content comes from the massive drop in piracy, said Zhang, who talked about the collective effort of major digital companies, including Sohu, which lobbied the government to wage a war on illegal streaming and downloading.
“The piracy issue, which has been a source of problems for many years in China, has now been resolved at 95%,” stated Zhang.
Zhang said Sohu’s offer was driven primarily by locally produced content. “We probably have 80% of domestic content – leading with TV dramas – and 20% of international content,” explained Zhang, who also pointed out that in April, a new regulation will cap foreign content at 30%.
Next up, Sohu is looking to develop more original programs in-house, said Zhang. The company recently made its first TV drama comprising 16 episodes and aims to produce three more TV drama series, as well as shortcom formats, in 2015.
Sohu, which is listed on NASDAQ, spans search, gaming, community and mobile services.