China’s streaming wars may end with a duopolistic peace
中国的流媒体大战或将以双头垄断和平收尾

巨头之战 A big-sum game-书迷号 shumihao.com

IQiyi insists the setback was down to one-off factors, such as virus-induced disruption to film production, which temporarily emptied the content pipeline. Perhaps. But Tencent Video offers a richer selection of English-language content, including hit television series like “Chernobyl” and “Silicon Valley”. More important, the rivalry between Tencent Video and iQiyi is a proxy war between mighty Tencent and fading Baidu, a search firm that is iQiyi’s majority owner. Indeed, iQiyi seemed to concede as much in its latest annual report, writing that “competitors include well-capitalised companies that are capable of offering compensation packages more attractive to talents.”

爱奇艺坚持认为这次挫折源于一次性因素,比如疫情导致电影制作中断,内容一时供应不上。也许如此。但腾讯视频提供了更丰富的英语内容,包括《切尔诺贝利》和《硅谷》等热门剧集。更重要的是,腾讯视频和爱奇艺之间的竞争是实力强劲的腾讯和日渐式微的百度(这家搜索公司拥有爱奇艺的多数股份)之间的代理人战争。实际上,爱奇艺在最近的年报中似乎也承认了这一点,称“竞争对手包括资本雄厚的公司,它们有能力提供更能吸引到人才的薪酬福利”。

Still, as Westerners who pay for a few video subscriptions can attest, streaming is not a zero-sum game. Gigi Zhou of BOCOM International, a broker, reckons the Chinese market will soon be big enough to sustain both iQiyi and Tencent Video, which also has yet to make money. Ms Zhou expects 400m Chinese to subscribe to video-streaming platforms by 2023, up from some 300m in 2019. So long as no new rival emerges, each firm could capture around 150m, helping them spread costs over more subscribers and so turn a profit.

不过,流媒体并非零和游戏,同时付费订阅多个视频服务的西方人可以证明这一点。券商交银国际(BOCOM International)的周喆估计,中国市场很快就会大到足以同时容下爱奇艺和同样尚未盈利的腾讯视频两者。周喆预计,到2023年将有四亿中国人订阅视频流媒体平台,高于2019年的三亿左右。只要没有新的竞争对手出现,每家公司都能吸引到约1.5亿订户,帮助它们把成本分摊给更多订户,从而实现盈利。

Before streaming peace can break out, iQiyi faces another fight. On August 13th it said it was under investigation by America’s Securities and Exchange Commission after a short-seller accused it of inflating sales data, a charge it denies. If found guilty, it may have to delist from New York’s Nasdaq exchange. The firm’s stable share price implies investors’ faith in battle-hardened Mr Gong is unshaken. ■

在和平降临于流媒体世界之前,爱奇艺还面临另一场战斗。8月13日,它表示由于做空者指控其夸大销售数据,公司正在接受美国证券交易委员会(SEC)的调查。爱奇艺否认这一指控。如果被定罪,它可能要从纽约纳斯达克交易所退市。目前,这家公司稳定的股价表明,投资者对久经沙场的龚宇信心没有动摇。