Chinese video streaming service provider iQIYI (爱奇艺) unveiled ambitious plans to create the “world’s largest Chinese-language VR platform” during the 2016 iQIYI World Conference on Thursday.
The company also launched a virtual reality set and VR Partner Incentive Program, two initiatives to boost iQIYI’s new virtual reality platform.
“In recent years, the investment in VR hardware development has made significant gains, but this cutting-edge technology still remains a futuristic concept to ordinary people in the absence of a VR content platform,” stated Gong Yu, founder and CEO of iQIYI in the company’s press release.
“iQIYI’s expertise in online video and games will serve us as a springboard to build up an open and complete industry chain that covers VR production, distribution and interaction,” he said.
iQIYI expects its virtual reality platform to reach more than 10 million users in China over the next 12 months.
iQIYI’s virtual reality set or “iVR +” includes two apps, the iVR Panorama Cinema and iVR Game Room, which are compatible with all head-mounted VR devices currently on the market. The VR Partner Incentive Program is twofold: the company will offer marketing, production, and operation assistance to VR content and device manufacturing partners, as well as work with VR video and game developers to make 10 copyrighted films and dramas and 100 copyrighted games into virtual reality content.
IP monetization is trending among Chinese tech giants as a way to generate revenue through content. In 2015, Tencent launched Tencent Pictures and Penguin Pictures, for producing and distributing online videos and movies. More recently in April, Alibaba Pictures, a Chinese film company under Alibaba, announced that it invested in Paramount Pictures’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and Star Trek Beyond.
For video streaming platforms, such as iQIYI and its competitor Youku Tudou, copyrighted content is a crucial way to offer viewers popular and high-quality content. In 2015, both iQIYI and Youku Tudou signed licensing deals with Paramount Pictures, giving both platforms access to hundreds of movie titles. Virtual reality, if it becomes as mainstream as iQIYI hopes, is simply another form of content that providers will compete over for distribution rights and ownership.
As of March, the Baidu subsidiary had 350 million PC users and 275 million people using its mobile app, according to iResearch. Other video streaming services, such as Youku Tudou and LeEco, have launched their own virtual reality initiatives, such as the Youku Tudou’s VR channel and the LeVR headset, respectively.