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China’s ‘Netflix’ iQiyi pivots toward an aging population in an AI era

BEIJING — iQiyi, a Chinese video streaming company, is targeting the country’s older population and employing AI to improve content production.

One of iQiyi’s near-term priorities is to strengthen the product offering for elderly consumers, according to CEO and founder Gong Yu, speaking at the company’s annual conference on Tuesday.

“It appears simple, but it is not, because for the past 10, 20 years, the motto has been to serve young people and not be traditional,” he stated in Mandarin, as transcribed by CNBC.

He mentioned that individuals in their 40s and older are leaving out because increased screen usage accelerates eyesight degradation, making it difficult for them to see small print. Gong also cited predictions that one-fourth of China’s population will be considered elderly in 2033, increasing to one-third by 2053.

China is rapidly aging as fewer individuals have children and life expectancy increases. Despite Beijing’s attempts over the previous decade to relax one-child restrictions, birth rates have declined.

Gong explained that having fewer children makes each child more meaningful. He stated that iQiyi would increase the quality of its content for children.

IQiyi is also leveraging artificial intelligence capabilities to improve content production efficiency.

Liu Wenfeng, iQiyi’s chief technology officer, spoke at the Tuesday conference about “embracing AI.” He demonstrated the company’s capabilities for swiftly duplicating a multi-camera shot in a virtual setting, as well as how virtual pieces ranging from clothing to buildings could be reused or monetized in a future metaverse.

Liu also claimed that iQiyi’s AI techniques may drastically cut the time required studying novels for production-worthy stories, as well as determining which portions of existing dramas bore or attract viewers.

The presentations on Tuesday morning included a snippet from OpenAI’s Sora text-to-video advertising video, but iQiyi executives declined to say whether they had similar technology at scale.

Instead, Liu stressed how generative AI empowers more individuals to be creators, with outstanding originality and superior aesthetics becoming the most scarce attributes.

IQiyi cannot publicly release more information about its AI capabilities owing to confidentially, but creators who collaborate with the company can learn more, according to founder Gong.

Looking ahead, he said the company would aim to capitalize on chances in global markets as China’s economy slows.

IQiyi revealed in late February that it has turned a profit in 2023 for the first time since listing in the United States in 2018. Nearly every year afterward, the corporation has reported yearly losses of $1 billion or more.

The company is scheduled to disclose quarterly earnings on May 16.

In an exclusive interview with CNBC in late February, iQiyi CFO Wang Jun stated that he is “excited” about potential new revenue opportunities with the launch of OpenAI’s text-to-video technology Sora.

He stated that such tools can help iQiyi convey tales more imaginatively, and that the company is internally studying the text-to-video market, but not with Sora.

In 2023, iQiyi said that its original content accounted for a record 65% of its big drama releases.

The organization claims to have more than 50 in-house studios that generate over 200 shows each year.

The rise of in-house production reflects a larger shift in China’s film business over the last five years, Wang said, noting that previously, the majority of content was created by third parties, resulting in bidding wars for shows that increased expenses.

Tencent Video, Alibaba-owned Youku, and Bilibili are three more important Chinese video platforms that offer longer-form content.



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