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Friday, 5 September 2014

Chinese media landscape

The Chinese media landscape is quite fascinating. Far from being copycats of western media companies (that once they definitely were) today's Chinese media companies have introduced a lot of innovations tailored to the local market. Alibaba (to be listed on the NYSE next week) is a hybrid of Amazon and eBay but also owns part of a social network (Weibo), similar to Twitter that is meant to facilitate communication between buyers and sellers. It owns a bunch of other related businesses: media content, retail and navigation - see a list of recent acquisitions here. Interestingly, its revenue model is also different from its western counterparts (mostly based on advertising rather than transactions fees). Similarly, Tencent, China's largest social media site was originally shaped after Facebook but is a very different social network today. It's WeChat mobile messaging system is a full blown social network, very different from Facebook's recently acquired WhatsApp. WeChat dominates China (is also successful in other countries) and has successfully integrated mobile payment, e-commerce and hosts a lot of content that members are paying for (e.g. games). China has a bunch of successful online video streaming companies (the largest is Youku Tudou parly owned by Alibaba) that produce their own content rivaling the established state-run TV and movie industries. The decade-long evolution of the industry has been strongly influenced by the government's industrial policy. On the one hand, the government has always exerted strong censorship making companies' lives harder. Yet, it has also been careful to protect Chinese media companies from their western rivals. A recent rule limiting introduced to limit western content on Chinese sites to 30% of airtime is a good illustration. While it creates disruption for distributors, it greatly helps local content developers that often reside under the same corporate roof.