China's entertainment giants are turning their focus to Southeast Asia amid intense competition, according to a Tuesday report from media platform The Drum.
Three major streaming platforms — Baidu's iQiyi, Tencent Video, and Alibaba's Youku — account for over 80 percent of market share in the Chinese mainland. These entertainment heavyweights are now turning to Southeast Asian streaming markets for expansion, since competition within China has gotten more intense from new players such as Bilibili and short-form video services.
IQiyi hired Netflix executive and former Singapore diplomat Kuek Yu-Chuang for its Asia expansion. At the same time, iQiyi also picked agency partners to build brand awareness in Southeast Asian markets.
Tencent Video, in addition to launching its WeTV platform in Thailand and Vietnam, has featured members from Malaysia and Thailand in their latest variety showChuang 2020, which has drawn great attention from audiences across the region.
In June, Tencent bought Malaysia-based over-the-top platform Iflix. The purchase is one of many steps Tencent is taking in joining the battle among Chinese streaming service giants in the Southeast Asian market, said Jedy Chen, a senior creative technologist at advertisement agency R/GA Singapore.
Since Tencent's WeTV did not make a significant impact upon entering Thailand and Vietnam, purchasing an existing platform like Iflix is a more efficient way to acquire audiences in the Southeast Asian market, Chen said. At the same time, the purchase of Iflix provides easy access to a local team, entertainment assets and an established network of production studios, which will benefit WeTV in the long term, Chen said.
There also is speculation Tencent will use the acquisition to accelerate adoption of its own Tencent Video platform outside China, said Rohan Lightfoot, regional chief growth officer for Asia Pacific at media agency Mindshare.
"Tencent has bought a business with a reported 25 million active users in a footprint that fits well within Tencent's expansion plans in Southeast Asia," Lightfoot said. "The Iflix brand is clearly portable beyond the current footprint, so Tencent may choose to retain and expand it. Clearly the work that Iflix has already done to build awareness and subscribers looks more valuable to Tencent than having to do all of that work themselves from scratch."
As of March 2019, Tencent Video had over 900 million mobile monthly users and 89 million VIP subscribers, the report said.
On the other hand, Tencent may not bring Iflix into China to compete against the likes of iQiyi and Youku, according to the report, which cited analysis from Benjamin Condit, chief strategy officer for Mindshare China.
More likely is talent and content sharing between Tencent Video and Iflix/WeTV to provide a global dual-market approach, providing an opportunity for Chinese content creators to get their work better known around the world, Condit said.