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December 1, 2016

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China’s digital entertainment a hit overseas

LOUIS Yang, co-founder and chief executive of the Shanghai startup, never expected the live streaming app to attract so much attention so quickly in overseas markets.

“When we started out, we figured on maybe 5 million users within the first year, but the global response has been far beyond our imagination,” Yang said in's office on Jumen Road in downtown Shanghai.

Since its debut last year, has amassed 120 million users globally, attracting celebrities and artists like Jason DeRulo, Paris Hilton, Fetty Wap, Shaquille O’Neal, Adam Lambert and Gnash. is the latest example of Chinese mobile publishers penetrating overseas markets in content and entertainment. They are taking advantage of the latest technologies, like cloud computing, artificial intelligence translation and mobile application stores.

Their services span music video clips, e-book novels and security applications on mobile devices.

Welcome to the newest wave of domestic entrepreneurs in China’s “Go Global” campaign, trailblazers following in the footsteps of companies like Lenovo and Huawei.

Their rapid foothold overseas is down to applications in entertainment, social networking, music and videos, according to US research firm App Annie.

Their combined revenue from Apple’s iOS store in the year to September 30 jumped 1.6 times to US$400 million in the United States market alone, and surged 2.6-fold in Japan to US$200 million, said App Annie.

New technologies are being integrated into Chinese cultural content to attract overseas audiences, said Yin Weimin, chairman of the National Base for International Cultural Trade (Shanghai). is now the top local Internet firm targeting overseas markets, Yang said, noting the benefits of its “unique opportunities and timing.”

With some 120 million users in more than 100 countries, offers more than 2 billion online video clips and is one of the biggest clients of Amazon cloud service AWS in China.

The app attracts about 1 million new registered users a day and handles about 200 million new messages daily during peak seasons — all with a technology management team of only three engineers.

Tech-led expansion

Besides offering storage and calculation capacities, AWS develops big data analysis tools to help clients deal with potential challenges and emergency situations.

Digital books have also ushered in unique opportunities to go global, said Zhang Lingyun, founder of iReader, an online reading app provider offering e-books in Chinese, English, Korean and Russian.

“There are no Chinese Internet firms with major market shares in overseas markets,” Zhang told a forum at the Third World Internet Conference last month. “We plan to take full advantage of breakthrough opportunities in digital reading.”

Traditional Chinese legends and stories, and online literature like “boss fiction” are the most popular categories among overseas readers,

For example, iReader ranks first among best-selling apps in Malaysia, thanks to “boss fiction,” a sort of modern Cinderella series of stories involving wealthy, charming high-flying bosses in romances with ordinary women.

“It satisfies all my fantasies about romance,” said a 25-year old iReader user based in Kuala Lumpur. “I don’t need to think too much. I just read them for fun.”

IReader has more than 600 million domestic users, which gives it experience in reading engines, e-book makeup, protection of copyrights and fan community operations. It all helps avoid unnecessary missteps in overseas markets, Zhang said.

Cultural similarity helps Chinese publishers gain markets elsewhere in Asia, including Japan, South Korea and Singapore, according to App Annie.

Technology advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence also help Chinese firms break through language bottlenecks.

Shenzhen-listed iFlytek Co has launched new voice recognition and instant translation services and devices, using artificial intelligence technology and targeting firms seeking overseas markets, including those along China’s “One Belt, One Road” expansion map.

Besides iFlytek, similar services are offered by Google and Microsoft, which help connect regions of different languages more easily. With machine learning, the accuracy rate of translation and voice recognition can be raised to over 95 percent.

The new service supports multiple languages, including Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean and Uygur, and boasts an accuracy rate of over 98 percent, according to iFlytek Chairman Liu Qingfeng.

Firms like Shanghai-based and New York-listed Cheetah Mobile, a Beijing-based mobile security firm, already depend heavily on overseas revenue.

Cheetah, offering mobile security and video service applications, returned to profitability mainly thanks to record high foreign revenue, said Fu Sheng, Cheetah’s CEO.

That income in the third quarter increased by 29 percent from a year earlier, triple the company’s normal revenue growth. Indeed, overseas revenue accounted for about two-thirds of total income.

Cheetah has more than 600 million users globally, 80 percent of them overseas, mainly in the US and Europe.

Its social tool, with celebrity video clips and local content, ranked as the No. 1 grossing social application in the US Google Play store and one of the top five social apps on Apple’s App Store, according to App Annie.


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