A screenshot of online music website of NetEase, a leading China-based Internet technology company.
A screenshot of online music website of NetEase, a leading China-based Internet technology company.

Paid online services have won more acceptance and popularity among Chinese Internet users in 2016. Business insiders believe the trend can be attributed to the change of consumption habit and the optimization of China’s copyright environment.

A screenshot of online music website of NetEase, a leading China-based Internet technology company.
A screenshot of online music website of NetEase, a leading China-based Internet technology company.
The paid online services include but are not limited to songs and TV plays provided by audio and video websites such as NetEase Cloud Music, Youku and Tudou, as well as reading materials offered by Fenda, voice message-based Q&A service, and Zhihu Live, an online lecture room.

China’s video streaming subsidiary iQiyi, for instance, has witnessed a growing number of verified VIP members. The company reported more than 5 million subscribers by June 2015, over 10 million by December 2015, and more than 20 million by June 2016.

By December 2016, the number of paid subscribers on domestic video sites had reached 75 million, up 241 percent compared with the previous year, and nine times that of its US counterpart, according to a Chinese research company EntGroup.

Analysts said the increase of paid subscribers is related to a change in consumer habits, quality improvement in the content provided by suppliers and efforts of service platforms.

On one hand, an increasing number of Web users are now willing to pay for high-quality content, while on the other hand, the suppliers are offering better quality content, they pointed out, adding that another contributor to the changes is the continuous optimization of China’s copyright environment.

In July 2015, the National Copyright Administration urged unauthorized online music providers to stop disseminating music works, in which the regulator demanded online music platforms to clean up infringing content and encourage online listening and downloading of paid music.

The policy is believed to have contributed to the rapid development of paid online music market.

The fast growth of online payment, especially mobile payment, is also an important booster. Data from the China Internet Network Information Center shows that in 2016, China’s mobile phone subscribers making payments online reached 469 million, growing 31.2 percent compared with the previous year.

Analysts pointed out that by December 2016, China had 731 million Internet users, which offers a huge potential for growth in the number of paid users.

They added that the market will see more robust growth after improvements in content quality, market segmentation of users and innovation of payment models by platforms and suppliers.

Though free services will remain the mainstream, the online paid services have the scope for development as long as users’ willingness to pay for high-quality services increases, insiders noted.

By Zhang Yixuan, Shang Dan from People’s Daily/NewsGhana.com.gh

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