LOS ANGELES: Chinese tech giant Baidu will invest US$70.3mil (RM305.86mil) into the livestreaming sector, the company said, as it looks to take on rivals Douyin, China's version of Tiktok, and Kuaishou in that space.
The news comes as these three players jostle for dominance amidst a series of tit-for-tat lawsuits, and as Baidu on May 18 announced better-than-expected revenue for the March quarter, causing its US-listed shares to rise 8% in extended trading.
Baidu's vice president Shen Dou said last week that the company's new investment will be spent on growing its livestreaming user base and attracting high quality content creators, according to Chinese financial publication Caixin. Baidu, best known for operating a Google-like search engine, plans to boost its short video operations by sending traffic from the rest of its ecosystem to creators' content.
It will add Haokan content to its own search engine results, and meanwhile, plans to integrate it with the short video platform run by iQiyi, a major Baidu-backed Chinese streaming platform.
Baidu has historically put less emphasis on livestreaming, and so lags behind its competitors in the sector. It hopes to make up for lost time by using data from its search engine to better target consumers. Ping Xiaoli, general manager of Baidu App, said that recent changes to consumer demands when it comes to livestreaming gives them a window of opportunity.
"Previously, consumers used livestreaming mainly to watch others play games and perform shows, but since this year, we've increasingly seen people use livestreaming for a lot of other purposes such as learning," he said in an online company conference last week. The sector has seen a big boost because of the novel coronavirus, which has kept much of the country locked up indoors since late January, shifting entertainment options increasingly online.
Baidu launched its own short video platform in 2017 called Haokan, which offers a mix of user-generated and professionally generated content. Growth has been slow, however, and it now trails massively behind Bytedance's Douyin and the Tencent-invested Kuaishou. Haokan has around 30 million daily active users, while Douyin claims 296 million and Kuaishou 214 million, Caixin reports.
Baidu's investment comes amidst a number of lawsuits against Bytedance for "unfair competition". Reports said Monday that Kuaishou has filed a suit in Beijing against Douyin because searches for the former app in a popular Chinese app store lead instead to a paid Douyin ad. In December, Baidu sued Bytedance's Jinri Toutiao app, a news aggregator making strides in short form video, for "interfering" with search results, nudging users looking for Baidu short videos to Bytedance-owned platforms instead.
On Monday, Baidu also forecast second-quarter revenue above expectations, as China's economy gets back on track after coronavirus shutdowns.
"With the pandemic coming under control in China, offline activities are rebounding and Baidu stands to benefit from a restart of the Chinese economy," said Robin Li, Baidu co-founder and chief executive, in a statement. – Variety/Reuters