At this year’s Asia TV Forum and Market (“ATF”), global streaming entertainment service iQIYI signaled its continued international ambitions with iQIYI International’s first-ever Korean original production, My Roommate is a Gumiho, as the company outlined its 2021 expansion and investment plans.

“Our first Korean original show is made in partnership with some of Korea’s top storytellers and production companies. More importantly, this is only the first step in the long journey of bringing more beloved Asian stories to a global audience,” said Kuek Yu-Chuang, Vice President for International Business at iQIYI.

Based on one of Korea’s most popular webtoons called Living Together (간 떨어지는 동거), My Roommate is a Gumiho will star Jang Ki Yong and Lee Hyeri and will be written, directed, and produced by industry heavyweights Baek Sun-woo (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim), Choi Bo-rim, and Nam Sung-woo (Kkondae Intern), in partnership with Studio Dragon and JTBC Studio.

iQIYI International, which has its headquarters in Singapore, soft-launched in 2019 with its website iQ.com and App, providing high-quality Asian content to global users. The company is owned by iQIYI Inc, which is based in China.

“This comes on the back of a pivotal year 2020 for us, as we embarked on our international expansion in earnest. We reinforced our content growth with investments in more markets and will continue expanding our presence locally by bringing on more content and production teams. Over the coming years, we remain committed to bringing high quality, beloved Asian stories to our iQIYI service,” shared Yang Xianghua, President of Membership & Overseas Business Group at iQIYI, who added that iQIYI International now maintained country offices in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and North America.

Chinese entertainment the new K-Wave?

According to Yang, “2020 saw iQIYI International bring the next big trends in entertainment to the global stage, with great success,” citing examples like drama series The Bad Kids, which debuted to rave reviews, as well as globally acclaimed reality show Youth With You 2.

Under the LIGHTS ON franchise, The Bad Kids won Best Creative Award at this year’s Busan International Film Festival, while iQIYI’s NextGen Variety show Youth With You 2 was an international breakout hit that saw 300 million views on YouTube with over 429 related hashtags trending across 15 countries in Asia, Europe, South America, and North America.

Yang continued, “These iQIYI originals have shown that the future of Chinese entertainment is a very bright one, especially outside of China. It is clear that our content is starting to gain mainstream appeal because of their universal themes and storylines. We believe that as long as we keep telling these beloved, Asian stories, there will be audiences around the world who will want to watch them.”

The company stated that it will continue developing Chinese, Korean, and Southeast Asian content. In 2020 alone, iQIYI International brought on a total of 29 Korean shows to its fans worldwide. It will also release its first Southeast Asian original production, Ferrymen: Legends of the Nanyang, in 2021 and follow up with Sisterhood, in 2022. Both shows star Singaporean and Malaysian favourites, like iQIYI International VIP Ambassador Lawrence Wong, Qi Yu Wu, Tay Ping Hui, and Xiang Yun.

Partnerships to accelerate growth

iQIYI International also signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Singapore Tourism Board (“STB”), to market Destination Singapore in China and other key markets. This marks iQiYI’s first-ever international partnership, with Singapore being its first exclusive destination partner, which will kick off with iQiYI’s Youth With You 3. ”

“[iQIYI’s] new global participation format for Youth with You 3, a growing library of pan-Asian content and our partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board are just some of the ways iQIYI International has been continuing to grow our roots in Asia, with an aim to appeal to our international audiences. As iQIYI International moves out to the global markets, we are always looking out for new and exciting partnerships,” said Kuek.

Chang Chee Pey, STB’s Assistant Chief Executive, International Group said, “STB is pleased to partner iQIYI International to jointly market Singapore to our key target audiences over the next three years through iQIYI’s exciting line-up of content, wide reach in China, and their growing footprint in key Southeast Asia markets. We look forward to working closely with iQIYI to feature Singapore in some of their key programmes and to co-create exciting marketing campaigns to amplify the Singapore destination story, and position Singapore as the destination of choice for travellers.”

The partnership leverages iQIYI International’s various partnership options, which include co-branding of content and hyperlocalisation of key programming.

Closing the session, Yang added, “Between the premium content iQIYI International has and the amazing content, distribution, advertising, and sales teams we’ve built, we also believe that iQIYI International will be an ideal platform for like-minded partners as we pursue our aggressive growth strategy in 2021.”

”iQIYI International is thrilled at the progress we’ve made since making our first moves internationally in 2019. There’s still so much more that we plan on doing in 2021 and the years to come. We will continue working hard in the international space and are confident that, this time next year, we will have another good report card to share,” concluded Yang.