Earlier this year we heard Tencent was in talks with New Oriental Education & Technology to introduce the latter’s educational content onto the former’s newly launched online education platform. We don’t know whether that will happen later, but today the pioneer in Chinese private education sector announced to team up with BesTV, a digital content and solution provider, to offer digital educational content through the latter’s various channels.

A program named “New Oriental TV School” will be available in more than 20 provinces in China through BesTV’s IPTV content platform. Students will be able to watch video courses on demand by New Oriental teachers who mostly give lectures at physical classes. And those classes charge pretty high prices. Apparently the content on BesTV’s platform is for free.

A kid-oriented educational program will be pre-loaded in the set-top boxes by BesTV. It is reported that the two companies will cooperate on digital education programs for Chinese schools later.

It’s unknown why New Oriental chose BesTV to work with. Almost all big Chinese Internet companies, including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and YY, are building online education platforms where quality content by New Oriental teachers must be in great demand. It seems New Oriental wants the access to Chinese families where most decisions on education are made by parents.

BesTV’s IPTV service covered 20 million Chinese families and smart TV solution covered 30 million as of the end of 2013. The company also has sold more than one million set-top boxes.

Earlier this year when YY launches the online education platform 100.com, Yu Minhong, CEO of New Oriental, commented that the business model — offering free services and then converting a portion into paying users — had been practiced by his company 20 years ago, and YY couldn’t be successful with online-only services. He and his team believe the offline classes will always be needed. But it seems New Oriental felt pressure from players like YY, for shortly after the launch of 100.com, New Oriental decided to offer some online content for free and encourage the existing teachers to give lectures on its own website, for free or not.

Teachers are of the most valuable to a business like New Oriental. It is estimated that some teachers may join other online platforms of YY, Tencent or Alibaba if those platforms manage to show them the effect of the Internet will bring them way more students or revenues.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

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