streaming service. On Thursday, the company confirmed its new partnership with Viki Inc., a website that allows users to share and subtitle videos in over 160 languages. Viki, a unit of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc., will be providing Baidu with licensed contents from around the world. It already has content distribution agreements with Renren, China’s Facebook, Sohu and LeTV.
The deal could further enhance Baidu’s leading role in China’s online video market. Already the company boasts more than 20 million daily active users of its mobile video app, which offers more than 350,000 shows. Chinese media said Baidu has basically formed a monopoly over the market. Baidu founder Robin Li recently surpassed real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin as China’s richest man. With the Viki deal, it will be easier for the company to tap into Chinese users’ big appetite for Korean and Japanese dramas.
Baidu’s vice president Zhu Guang said China’s internet video industry is still at an early stage. Before the Viki partnership, the search giant has been stepping up its push into the video streaming business. IQiyi, its online video unit, purchased this year the popular video streaming platform PPStream for 370 million USD. IQiyi also obtained the exclusive license to distribute online China’s most popular reality TV show, Where Did My Dad Go.
Baidu has also been targeted by its competitors. In November, its online peers including Tencent Holdings and Sohu alleged that Baidu distributed pirated contents online and via its desktop and mobile applications. They sought 49.2 million USD in total damages from Baidu and another video streaming website QVOD. Baidu said it has always prioritized copyright protection. China’s Xinhua said the lawsuit was more about the power struggle in the online video sector than fighting piracy. Analysts believe the lawsuit is unlikely to have any concrete result and Baidu is likely to keep its leading position.