Chinese streaming service iQiyi commits to making more Singapore content

(From left) iQiyi ambassador Lawrence Wong, iQiyi's vice-president of sales Frankie Fu, iQiyi's vice-president of international business Kuek Yu-Chuang, and assistant chief executive for media and innovation at IMDA Howie Lau. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Video streaming service iQiyi has committed to make more Singapore shows and distribute them globally by working with local production houses.

The Chinese company made this announcement on Tuesday (Dec 15) at the launch of its international headquarters in Singapore.

While the details have yet to be firmed up, iQiyi has plans to make "more Singaporean stories with Singaporean settings", said Mr Kuek Yu-Chuang, 41, vice-president for international business at iQiyi.

Started in 2010, iQiyi has been described as the No. 2 player in China's video streaming market, with 104.8 million subscribers as of September.

The global streaming platform's declaration follows the filming of its first Singapore collaboration, The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang, with local production company G.H.Y. Culture and Media. It is slated for release in 2021.

Adapted from iQiyi's 2014 show Soul Ferry, the fantasy drama series stars Lawrence Wong, from the popular historical drama Story Of Yanxi Palace, along with local actors Qi Yu Wu, Tay Ping Hui and Xiang Yun.

This is part of a slew of iQiyi Originals shows, which appear to be competing with popular streaming service Netflix.

Local production houses and the media authority welcomed the move to collaborate and innovate.

"A lot of local media companies have tried to penetrate the China market, which isn't easy due to the many rules... and the different audience there," said Mr Lim Teck, 45, managing director of Clover Films.

"Partnering with an established company like iQiyi is helpful to Singaporean firms as they have the know-how on making content work in China. In turn, we can help to distribute content to parts of South-east Asia."

The hybrid production company, which also distributes popular Korean movies like Train To Busan and Parasite in Singapore and Malaysia, has since sold the rights for romantic drama Josée, featuring Nam Joo Hyuk, to the streaming platform.

"This is an exciting time for Asian content, and iQiyi's anchoring in Singapore is testament to the attractiveness of our city-state as the place for leading corporations to expand their regional presence," added the assistant chief executive for media and innovation at the Infocomm Media Development Authority, Mr Howie Lau.

As a technology company, iQiyi plans to expand into South-east Asia and beyond.

This began in June 2019, when its international app made content available in languages such as Thai and Vietnamese.

"We've chosen Singapore to anchor our international operations as Singapore's connectivity and reputation as a prime talent hub makes it the ideal gateway to ramp up our global operations," said Mr Kuek.

He hopes to grow the current staff of 25 to more than 200 in the next five years. Vacancies are expected to include roles in content, advertisement sales, business development and marketing.

Apart from Singapore, iQiyi has offices in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila, Dubai and Toronto.

"Despite the current global climate in 2020, we see an opportunity for iQiyi International to grow at an even faster rate in the coming year. We have been building and expanding our international team, not just in Singapore, but in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand as well," said iQiyi chief executive Gong Yu at the company's opening ceremony.

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