Mobile video is second only to social media in terms of monthly active users (MAU) in China, and with its growth rate more than double that of social, the fast-diversifying sector of mobile video looks set to soon pass the 1 billion mark and challenge social for the top spot, according to a report by data collators QuestMobile (in Chinese).

While the recent Penguin Intelligence report focused on the continued growth of WeChat’s reach into every aspect of life, QuestMobile’s “Mobile Internet Spring 2017 Report: Let’s Talk About a Country of Apps with 1 Billion+ Users” proves there is plenty more happening on mobile, with video a standout success.

Adding together online video content, live streaming, and short videos, the category grew 35.6% year on year in March to almost 920 million MAU. There was an increase of over 12 million users just from February to March, more than the entire population of Belgium.

Mobile Video MAU
Monthly active users (per 10k) and year-on-year growth

While the categories are still handled separately, social media is dominated by giants such as WeChat and Weibo, whereas mobile video is more fragmented. This does not necessarily mean that mobile video is an open playing field, as the core of the market is starting to show signs of maturity with big money now needed to make headway.

Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group is to completely overhaul Tudou, which is struggling on mobile, making it a short video site with a new app and heavily discounted or free traffic on China’s big three mobile carriers, according to local media (in Chinese). The group will also merge several of its channels, including Taobao, to form the “Big Fish” platform (大鱼号), investing RMB2 billion in its “Big Fish Plan” (大鱼计划) to source content worldwide.

The QuestMobile report breaks down figures to show Tencent Video was slightly ahead of iQiyi with 435 million versus 433.7 million MAU, though iQiyi’s year-on-year growth of 58% compared to Tencent’s 48% suggests future reports will see iQiyi take the lead. Hunan-based Mango TV, makers of hit shows such as In the Name of the People, saw its mobile audience almost doubled with 93% growth to 78.7 million MAU, ranking it 7th. Only Xiaomi TV in the top 10 saw falling figures, dropping 4% to 95.3 million MAU.

Mobile Video Top 10
Orange: MAU per 10k. Yellow: year-on-year change to March 2017
Left to right: Tencent, iQiyi, Youku, Kuaishou, LeTV, Xiaomi, MangoTV, Sohu, StormPlayer, Tudou

Perhaps more noteworthy than shifts in the more standard video platform rankings is the impact of short video apps and live streaming. Kuaishou, the much-derided short video editing, and sharing app, now ranks fourth with 109.4 million MAU – ahead of LeShi TV and growing at 65%.

If Miaopai, the video sharing, and live streaming app, is counted then it ranks above Kuaishou with 276.5 million MAU, pushing Tudou out of the Top 10. Mobile video is growing in other ways. News aggregator app Jinritoutiao (今日头条) now sees over half its daily active users watching video, peaking at 9 pm, the same time Meipai peaks for live streaming.

Further blurring of categories is probably to be expected across mobile with the increasing push towards user generated content and social aspects of mobile video apps (and of many other apps, such as Alipay’s infamous attempt) and increasing use of video by social media apps.

The report contains many more insights into mobile use, such as under-24s increasing their time spent on apps by over 12% year on year to March to break the 3-hour/day barrier; take-away service app use surging 75% (103% in February – remember the cold and pollution?); mobile email use is falling 4.8% to 93.4 million MAU and the plateauing of mobile VR viewers at 5.4million MAU after falling from 6million in November 2016.

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Frank Hersey

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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