iQiYi, one of China’s three largest SVoD services spent RMB21.1bn ($3.13bn) on content in 2018, nearly matching the total content spend of China’s top six broadcaster groups. Content spend by the SVoD player has shot up since launch, increasing from just RMB46m ($6.8m) in 2011. Over the past eight years, iQiYi averaged a massive 152% growth in content spend a year. In contrast, China’s leading traditional TV broadcasters, which includes CCTV (the national TV broadcaster) and the top five regional broadcasters (Hunan, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Beijing) have taken a comparatively conservative approach, with an average annual growth in content spend of 21% from 2011 to 2018. Combined, the broadcasters are expected to spend RMB25.5bn ($3.8bn) on content in 2018. At the current rate, iQiYi is likely to overtake the total content expenditure of the dominant six TV broadcasters within two years.
iQiYi’s massive content spend has been mainly used to purchase exclusives and produce original content. To date, iQiYi has produced around 250 original titles, with a focus on reality shows and TV series. Exclusive content now accounts for around 10% of iQiYi’s total catalogue, of which at least 700 titles are feature films. The Chinese SVoD market is expected to continue growing quickly and ensuring a plethora of high-quality content is the key factor for iQiYi to keep pace with its main SVoD competitors—Youku and Tencent Video.