18 OCT 2023

As Chinese SVODs expand overseas, can Chinese content find an audience?

With the local market getting saturated and leading platforms struggling to gain new subscribers, Chinese SVODs have turned their eyes abroad to seek new opportunities, Ampere Analysis said in its latest report.

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“KinnPorsche" (iQIYI)

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As of the second quarter of 2023, China had almost 400 million SVOD subscriptions, with its market buoyed by a number of distinct SVOD services. Tencent Video and iQIYI each has around 110 million subscriptions while Mango TV has surpassed Youku to become China’s third largest SVOD with over 60 million subscriptions. Moreover, the heavy competition among SVOD services has enabled almost half of China’s households to now subscribe to at least one SVOD service. But with the local market getting saturated and leading platforms struggling to gain new subscribers, Chinese SVODs have turned their eyes abroad to seek new opportunities, Ampere Analysis said in its latest report.

Although most of the major Chinese SVOD services are now available in a number of markets outside of China, Tencent Video, iQIYI, Bilibili and Mango TV have all chosen Southeast Asia as their primary region of overseas growth. Adjacent geographic locations, connected historical and cultural roots, and shared content preferences all help the Chinese SVOD services to find their addressable audience.

All four major Chinese SVOD services have localized their user interfaces into local languages and added dubbing and subtitles to their content. In addition, iQIYI is integrated as a premium channel in the pay TV package provided by Malaysian pay TV operator Astro, while Tencent Video acquired iflix, a longstanding regional service with over 8 million subscriptions. Moreover, besides bringing Chinese content to Southeast Asian audiences, iQIYI and Tencent Video have also invested in local original productions and co-productions in the region: iQIYI’s Originals “KinnPorsche, “The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang” and Tencent Video’s “The Wife” were particularly well received by local audiences.

However, while Chinese SVODs are eager to grow its international visibility, Chinese content has yet to break through in appealing to a wider international audience, especially when compared to movies and TV series from other Asian countries, Ampere noted. Japanese content, for example, has a longstanding dedicated audience base via its long-running Anime and Manga franchises. In fact, the most popular Japanese content includes franchises that have been running for over ten years, such as “One Piece,” “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” “Pokémon,” and Studio Ghibli films.

South Korean content, too, has significantly increased its global popularity in recent years, especially with Oscar winning movie “Parasite,” Netflix’s global hit “Squid Game” and a growing number of high-quality Netflix Korean Originals. South Korean content has also become more widely available to global audience thanks to Netflix distributing Korean content through a range of content-sharing and licensing deals with Korean studios.

“In comparison, Chinese content still lacks similar levels of hit content or classic titles that attract audiences across different countries and cultures. While some of their adaptations and original productions in Southeast Asia have been successful, Chinese SVODs need to further optimize their content strategy, and find Chinese stories that resonate more widely, in order to create a real international success,”  said Orina Zhao, Senior Analyst at Ampere Analysis and the author of the report.

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