My favorite soap opera: the Chinese online video market

My favorite soap opera: the Chinese online video market

On days like today it seems no industry is more exciting than the Chinese online video market. It’s like a soap opera with all the right ingredients: a government that isn’t afraid to pull the censorship card every once in a while, tough competition, as much rumors as videos, and millions, millions of funding. So here’s your latest episode with, I must say, quite a cliff hanger.

The millions of funding

Firstly, there’s Youku. Nobody’s exactly sure, but they seem to be the no. 2 video site (100 million daily video views). They’ve already gathered $40 million of funding in three rounds and announced yesterday that this number has doubled. The video site received $30 million from existing investors Brookside Capital Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, Farallon Capital and Chengwei Ventures and added another $10 million with a loan by Western Technology Investment (former loans: Facebook and Google).

But that’s not all, as one of the other video players in world’s largest internet market also managed to get a few millions here and there. The Pacific Epoch reports that the smaller video site Ku6.com has received $30 million in series C funding. An employee secretly told them, as Ku6 isn’t very transparent when it comes to funding. They allegedly closed series B at the end of last year and received $10 million of series A funding in May 2007.

The destination of this money is almost certain, as Tudou (no.1) founder Marc van der Chijs told me that almost all the investments flow directly to bandwidth. He said that he could turn Tudou into a profitable business by limiting the bandwidth usage, yet then his competition would probably catch-up.

The censorship

In that very same conversation, Van der Chijs also mentioned that almost every censorship rumor isn’t true and just matches the way we, people from the west, like to see China. But here’s one thing that’s undeniable: 56.com (no. 3) has been off line for almost a month now. VentureBeat’s Eric Eldon wrote an excellent piece about this matter, and refers to several Chinese sources who claim 56.com has been taken off line by the government, particularly because they didn’t like 56.com footage of the earthquake in May. “We may never know the real reason why 56.com has been shut down”, Eldon wrote, “But if the cause is censorship, this is a tragedy for anyone who believes in the democratic system.”

There’s your cliff hanger people. Stay tuned to your blog to hear the latest on this soap opera where two forces clash on almost a daily basis: the money versus the government.

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