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Baidu-backed iQiyi launches in-house film studio, 8 movies in the works

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Chinese streaming video portal iQiyi yesterday launched its own in-house film production studio, iQiyi Pictures.

iQiyi said in a statement it will continue to join forces with domestic and foreign film companies. It has plans to co-produce seven domestic films and one Hollywood movie within the next year. iQiyi was already working with a handful of major studios to produce nearly 30 TV shows. It seems now those efforts are being consolidated under the iQiyi brand.

The move to the big screen comes as many major video sites in China ramp up their efforts to offer original content to subscribers and ultimately drive revenues. This is done through partnerships and investments into existing studios and, as iQiyi has decided to do, produce content in-house.

In October last year, rival video portal and smart TV maker LeTV acquired a Chinese production studio for US$260 million in a similar move.

By some estimates, iQiyi overtook Youku (NYSE:YOKU) this year as China’s most popular video streaming service. iResearch reports iQiyi users watched almost 1.2 billion hours of video in January, making up 22 percent of total market share in the country.

Chinese web giant Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) owns both iQiyi and fellow video site PPS. It merged the two after it bought the latter for US$370 million in May last year. PPS is officially part of iQiyi but also retains its own website.

Using Baidu’s financial services arm, iQiyi plans to let investors back movies, similar to the film investment service Alibaba launched a few weeks ago. Alibaba earlier this week signed a deal to get exclusive content from Mad Men and Orange is the New Black studio Lionsgate onto its set-top boxes.

See: How Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent will dominate China’s movie industry in 3 years

Editing by Steven Millward

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