Chinese video streamer iQiyi cut its losses in 2021 to RMB6.2 billion ($968 million), compared to RMB7.0 billion in 2020 and said that recent cost cutting measures were quickly bearing fruit. But its latest regulatory filing also revealed that subscriber numbers continue to fall on both a quarterly and annual basis.
The NASDAQ-listed company said that gross revenues for the 12-months to December 2021 were RMB30.6 billion ($4.8 billion), representing a 3% increase on 2020. Operating losses were RMB4.5 billion ($703 million) and the operating loss margin was 15%, which it said showed improvement compared to operating losses of RMB6.0 billion and an operating loss margin of 20% in 2020.
By the company’s preferred measure, non-GAAP attributable losses, iQIYi’s annual incremental deficit was RMB4.5 billion, compared to a non-GAAP net loss attributable to iQiyi of RMB5.4 billion in 2020.
Average paying subscription numbers dropped below the symbolic 100 million mark, falling from 102.7 million at the end of 2020 to 97.0 million at the end of December 2021.
In the quarter that coincided with its cost cutting measures – believed to have involved cutting 20% of its workforce and scaling back content commissioning – the company also lost some 7.7 million paying subscribers. (At the end of the third quarter, it claimed an average of 104.7 million paying subscribers.)
On the other hand, the company managed to extract more revenue from its paying clients. Average revenue per user (ARPU) in the fourth quarter was RMB14.16 ($2.24), compared with RMB13.65 ($2.12) at the end of the third quarter and RMB 12.5 ($1.98) at the end of 2020.
“We would like our shareholders to recognize that iQiyi is leading the opening of a new chapter in the Chinese long-form video industry. Starting from the fourth quarter of 2021, we launched a series of initiatives to optimize our cost and improve our organizational alignment. The results have been very encouraging. We significantly improved our operating and cost efficiency, while maintaining our industry-leading position in terms of various user metrics,” said Gong Yu, iQiyi’s founder, director and CEO.
“Our goal is to reach non-GAAP operating break-even for the full year of 2022 and to reach quarterly non-GAAP operating break-even as early as possible, while maintaining our competitive advantage as the industry leader. I am delighted to see that we are moving in the right direction.” He added that operating losses for the fourth quarter decreased by 25% annually and 29% sequentially.
The 12-year-old company has been a rocky ride for investors. It has never made a profit and has ceded the market leadership, as measured by the number of paying subscribers, that it once held. After repeated rounds of fund-raising since its 2018 IPO, the company saw its shares plunge late last year as reports of the cost cutting measures circulated.
Ahead of the Tuesday results statement, the stock finished trading on Monday at $4.14 per ADR. That compares with $18 at the time of the IPO and with a massive 12-month price range of $3.26 and $28.97.