SINGAPORE – Mainland Chinese online video portal iQIYI plans to more than double original production in 2015, with at least 30 titles and 500 episodes on the slate so far compared to 13 in 2014, iQIYI’s chief content officer, Ma Dong, says.
Speaking at the Asia TV Forum and Market in Singapore on Tuesday, Ma said the commitment to original content “doesn’t mean we have no cap” on investment. He did not disclose total production budgets.
“We consider the needs of our viewers in making investments,” he said. For instance, RMB5 million per episode spent on drama “The Lost Tomb,” “was much more than we initially anticipated but because the programme is worthwhile, the investment is worthwhile,” he said.
The debut season of “The Lost Tomb,” an adaptation of a popular Chinese novel, will be released in March 2015. IQIYI plans to make eight seasons over the next eight years.
Ma said iQIYI, which is owned by online search engine Baidu, would continue to carry a wide range of acquired content in addition to original productions.
“There needs to be all the kinds of content for our viewers to enjoy,” he said, adding that more than 50% of Baidu’s shows from January to May this year were not available on China’s linear TV channels.
Content acquisition costs had soared over the past two years, driven largely by Korean drama. “It’s quite painful to see figures going up so quickly,” Ma said.
He added that content strategies had changed significantly in the past year “because we have had to meet the rapidly changing needs of the market and to tailor our strategies to their needs”.
At the same time, he said, viewers prioritised good content “and in this there is no difference between new and old”.
IQIYI targets younger audiences born between 1990 and 1995 and also women born in the late 1980s. Content remains distinct from online platform PPS, which Baidu acquired in May 2013, although backend functions and technologies had been integrated and were now operating on the same platform, Ma said.
IQIYI’s biggest challenge was talent recruitment, Ma said, adding that this was a universal challenge in “every industry, country and culture.”