The move is part of a corporate response to the coronavirus lockdowns across much of the region. These have caused cinemas to close and consumption of online entertainment to spike upwards.
It is also a move that may help iQIYI’s expansion outside mainland China. The company started to make its app available in South East Asia almost a year ago, but has not yet set up fully-localized content libraries, marketing activities or local production activities.
Other companies operating video services in South East Asia have recently revealed major problems. Hooq was put into liquidation by its chief shareholder Singtel at the end of March, while Iflix has confirmed a swathe of job cuts. There is now considerable debate about the potential for local streaming businesses in the region.
The company said that “Nezha,” which is the second highest grossing film of all time in China, with theatrical earnings of RMB5 billion ($706 million), will be available to VIP subscribers in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Brunei and Cambodia. It is subtitled in six languages: Chinese, English, Malay, Vietnamese, Bahasa Indonesia and Thai.
Produced by Enlight subsidiary Coloroom, the film is based on well-known Chinese mythology about an angry young demon. The company says that “Nezha” has been among the top 10 most played movies on its platform in China, and has an average viewer rating of 9 out of 10.
To date, the international version of the iQIYI app includes more than 2,700 films, a mix of new releases, classics and premium originals. It has not disclosed either subscriber or active user numbers in South East Asia.
iQIYI is backed by Chinese online search leader Baidu. Both companies have share listings on the NASDAQ market in North America.