Shanghai Film Festival: China's iQiyi Announces 5M Paid Subscribers for Streaming Service

AP/Invision

The film unit of Internet giant Baidu plans to buy distribution rights to more than 1,000 U.S. movie titles to meet swelling demand from its users for Hollywood content.

Baidu's online video subsidiary unit iQiyi has reached five million paid subscribers, which marks a 765 percent annual increase, and said it was planning to improve its content offering to serve paying members.

"In the future, iQiyi will continue to provide more excellent domestic and international content to members," iQiyi founder and chief executive Gong Yu told THR at an event at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

iQiyi plans to buy distribution rights to more than 1,000 U.S. movie titles to meet swelling demand from its users for Hollywood content, and plans to make seven local films and one Hollywood-style film next year. Over one million users took part in its crowdfunding program for The Golden Era, a film by Hong Kong director Ann Hui, raising nearly $3 million in three minutes.

iQiyi also inked a $300 million partnership with smartphone maker Xiaomi to buy TV shows and movies. "The success of iQiyi’s paid subscription model demonstrates the strong demand of Chinese audiences for online-video platforms with high-quality content,” said Yu.

Last year, iQiyi hosted more than 60 percent of the movies played in cinemas in China. Over 80 percent of movies with box office income exceeding 100 million yuan ($16.11 million) in China in 2014 can be found on iQiyi, along with over 400 Internet-only films.

Yu said piracy was less of a problem than before, and improvements in payment systems were making a big difference to encouraging people to pay for content. "We want to focus on transferring free users into paid users," he said.

The profile of the subscribers is young, with most of them born after the 1980s, said Yang Xianghua, iQiyi senior vice president. "However, this is still a small portion of our over 500 million users, and we expect that the future conversion rate to paid members could be substantial."

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