“Content is king”, as they say, and even hardware manufacturers want in on it. Xiaomi, the Chinese smart hardware and internet service provider, announced this afternoon that it is allocating US$1 billion to digital content, especially online videos for the Xiaomi Smart TV and set-top box.

The company has hired Chen Tong, editor-in-chief of Sina since 1998, to take charge of its digital content business and serve as vice president. The Sina news portal is the leading online news site in China and has been for many years. Chen is also an early investor in Xiaomi.

When it comes to digital content, Xiaomi so far only owns a digital book publishing service, Duokan. Xiaomi Smart TV and set-top box stream online videos from authorized licensees, or indeed unauthorized online video services (tech-savvy users always finding work-arounds). Xunlei, in which Xiaomi has the biggest stake, also runs a video streaming service, and Xiaomi products have integrated its services.

Earlier this year Xiaomi lost a copyright infringement lawsuit against LeTV, a Chinese company that both produces Smart TVs and set-top boxes and runs an online video business.

It’s unknown whether Xiaomi will establish a video streaming service or produce original content as LeTV does in the near future. Update: Xiaomi’s management said at the press conference later this afternoon that they would neither establish a site to compete against existing video streaming services nor produce original content. Instead they will partner with content providers.

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

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