Asia is home to over 50% of the Fortune Global 500 companies. The continent’s rapid internet growth in recent times has seen its internet connectivity and use account for over half of the global consumption.
Yet, the lack of Asian on-screen representation remains to be a subject of debate in the west.
However, in the southeastern corner of the region,the demand for Asian content is at an all time high.
And supplying to the demand are OTT players.
Take iQiyi, the fastest-growing streaming service in Malaysia, for example. The platform has been operating on a “freemium” model, offering both subscription and ad-based viewing options.
As it grows into the leading entertainment platform in Asia powered by technology, its deep libraries of strong Asian content has made iQiyi a strategic differentiator in the region, and the numbers certainly bear testament to this fact.
As of August 2021, iQiyi was the most downloaded streaming service in Malaysia this year. According to public data by AppAnnie, the platform also ranked top among Asian streaming services in terms of daily and monthly active users, as well as overall time spent.
And it’s not hard to see why iQiyi’s originals range from drama to variety shows and movies.
Its extensive list of over 4,000 titles including Korean and Malay dramas, variety shows and anime is complemented by a large selection of Original Chinese content including the highly sought-after genres such as period and costume, modern romance, NextGen variety shows and romantic content franchise SWEET ON, among others.
The platform’s aim to be the leading streaming-service provider for Asian content is a strategically calculated one, answering an ever-growing call from consumers.
According to Google’s 2020 Year in Review, the 10 most searched titles in Malaysia under the entertainment-related category were all Asian titles.
Besides underlining the growing demand and interest for Asian content among Malaysians, this also strongly indicates that audiences are searching for a collection of titles that haven’t yet been provided in a big and all-encompassing way by other services.
This is a void that iQiyi seeks to fill. And in some ways, the platform already has. Out of the Top 10 most searched titles, four of them were content available on iQiyi.
Top among them was the number one local Malay drama in Malaysia, 7 Hari Mencintaiku 2 – which is licensed exclusively to iQiyi.
Two other titles are Korean – The World of the Married and Parasite, while the fourth is a Chinese variety show, Youth With You – an iconic variety show of iQiyi.
On-screen representation matters
On-screen representation has been advocated for as long as several decades. A paper way back in 1976 titled “Living with Television,” stated, “Representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation.”
Despite the progress that has been made in the last decade, “symbolic annihilation” and inaccurate representation has been a head scratcher even for the best in the business worldwide.
Fortunately, Asian content streamers have managed to overcome the issue through prioritization of regional content. For iQiyi, its growing commitment for Asian Originals can be seen through some of its original productions such as My Roommate is a Gumiho, The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang, Jirisan, just to name a few.
Aside from targeting its Malaysian and regional audience with strong Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Malay content, the platform has also formed partnerships with major content producers in the country, such as Media Prima and Astro.
Besides launching with Astro in 2019 (which brought iQiyi to Malaysia with a special price exclusively for Astro customers, and as the world’s first iQiyi linear channel), the platform also joined forces with Media Prima’s Primeworks Studios.
The multi-year deal was forged to bring a majority of the highest-rated primetime Malay dramas onto iQiyi exclusively and also create a dedicated tab for all things Malay Drama. This means viewers can stream their favorite shows exclusively on iQiyi the same day it airs nationwide on Media Prima’s channels.
However, aside from just reaching Asian audiences with Asian content, iQiyi is also committed to promoting local talent to other markets abroad, such as China, and vice versa. A recent joint venture with Singapore-based GHY Culture & Media to form a talent agency, highlighted the platform’s commitment to the local creative scene.
While the digital entertainment revolution is being shaped by consumers taking increased control of how they use media and entertainment devices, OTT platforms such as iQiyi are certainly taking the lead in Asia.
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