×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

FilMart: Big Data, Content Key to iQIYI’s Online Ambitions

Tech and data play a huge role for iQIYI, China’s second-largest streaming platform, as a way to innovate and step out ahead of its competitors, iQIYI founder and CEO Yu Gong explained in a keynote speech Monday at FilMart.

“We don’t see a lot of innovation-driven entertainment companies yet. We want to be the one,” he said. “But innovation is not gambling. We need to be brave, but have the capacity to take calculated risks.”

Big Data is the key to ensuring the firm is putting its chips on the surest bets.

The iQIYI site currently has 200 million to 300 million viewers per day. It retains and analyzes “a huge amount of data” from all of them, Gong said, including info about logins, gender, location and what kinds of services are used and programs preferred, allowing the company to generate detailed assessments of what kinds of responses different content might elicit.

“We need predictions like this so we can lower the risks on our programs and other services. We need to know what viewers want to see and what we they don’t so that our [AI automated] recommendations won’t annoy them.”

A lot of work is put into classifying audience groups, determining who exactly is watching what. “I’m not talking about determining actual ages — I’m talking about people’s mentality. Some people just act like teenage girls” in their viewing choices, he said to laughs.

The company employs about 4,000 software engineers and has hundreds of server rooms in China. A number of them are at work stamping out the spread of fake data, as the country is full of companies that specialize in faking views, comments or reviews to trick algorithms — and through them, advertisers and investors — into thinking products are more popular than they are.

Gong said that while total detection of fakery was impossible, his teams had reached a 2% accuracy level, so low that now violators “are just spending money but not gaining any advantages” from trying to game the system. The company has eliminated YouTube-style view counts on its streaming platform, instead determining popularity via internal, hidden algorithms sharing stats only with advertisers and content creators.

“We believe this method is better than simply showing the number of views. This has become an industry standard and more and more difficult to cheat,” he said.

Numbers aside, the firm still believes that exclusive, quality content remains the key to success, especially as the Chinese online streaming landscape shifts away from user-generated content to professionally generated content. “I really believe in the impact of marketing, but content is in fact king. The Internet has brought the cost of communication way down, so when we have good content in our hands it can be easily promoted to everyone everywhere,” said Gong.

But the company is struggling to find standout, unique programming. “There’s too much homogenous content at the moment. We’ve seen a lot of proposals, but they’re all very similar It’s hard to find something that really leaves an impression,” he said, discussing variety shows, which have exploded as an online genre in China in recent years.

iQIYI lost $1.3 billion in 2018, largely due to higher spending on original content production.

The content creation landscape is changing now that a single season of such a show can easily command a budget of $2.9 million to $4.5 million (RMB20 million to RMB30 million), Gong said. With such a price tag, only the existing big Chinese streaming platforms are able to take on the necessary commercial risks of production at that scale.

“I think the quality of variety shows will get better and better, but the room for innovation will get smaller and smaller,” as the number of different content creators decreases and the field is consolidated, Gong said.

More Film

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' Soars to Record-Breaking $60 Million Opening in North America

    Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” has opened astronomically in North America with a record $60 million in Thursday night preview showings. It’s the top domestic preview number of all time, besting “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at $57 million in 2015. Anticipation has been sky high this year for fourth and final Avengers movie. “Avengers: Endgame” will [...]

  • Sophia Anne Caruso and Alex Brightman'Beetlejuice'

    'Beetlejuice' Musical Team Hopes to Attract New Audiences to Broadway

    In the new Broadway adaptation of Tim Burton’s 1988 cult classic film “Beetlejuice,” teenager Lydia takes center-stage alongside the titular gut-busting demon (Alex Brightman) to reflect the famed goth girl’s journey through Beetlejuice’s funhouse of death and disaster. “I think so many people connect to “Beetlejuice” because it’s a story of outsiders, Lydia being the center of [...]

  • Chris Hemsworth'Avengers: Endgame' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Is Chris Hemsworth Ready to Leave the 'Avengers' Franchise?

    Chris Hemsworth isn’t exactly sure when he’ll leave the “Avengers” franchise. “There will come a day,” the “Thor” star told me when we sat down to chat for the second episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s new film podcast. “Whether it’s now or in the future, I don’t know…Who knows what the sort [...]

  • Michael B. JordanLAFH Awards 2019, Los

    Michael B. Jordan, Ronda Rousey Join Efforts to Help the Homeless

    Michael B. Jordan and WWE star Ronda Rousey were just two of the powerhouses that gathered in Hollywood Thursday night for the Los Angeles Family Housing’s annual fundraising celebration. The live-auction event, which brought together hundreds of top industry executives, philanthropists, and government partners, aimed to raise $2 million for LAFH, which builds permanent housing [...]

  • Sinemia

    Sinemia Shuts Down U.S. Movie-Ticket Subscription Service

    Sinemia, a would-be rival to MoviePass, is closing down its U.S. operations — telling customers it could not find “a path to sustainability” amid legal headaches, competitive pressures and the challenging economics of the business model. The company announced the shutdown in a notice on its website Thursday. “While we are proud to have created [...]

  • 'Death Stranding' is a 'Playground of

    'Death Stranding' is a 'Playground of Possibilities,' Will Make You Cry

    The Thursday evening conversation between game-making auteur Hideo Kojima and “Walking Dead” actor Norman Reedus about highly-anticipated PlayStation 4 game “Death Stranding” was filled with interesting anecdotes, but little in the way of hard fact. Instead, Kojima made a promise of sorts to the audience and seemingly fans everywhere waiting for more news on the [...]

  • Trailer for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Entry

    Watch: Trailer for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Entry ‘Song Without a Name’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID — Peru’s La Vida Misma and Paris-based sales agent Luxbox have dropped the first trailer and poster of Melina Leon’s “Canción sin nombre” (“Song Without a Name”), selected this week for the Cannes Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight. Written by Leon and Michael J. White, “Song Without a Name” sums up some of ambitions and focus [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content