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BUSINESS & TECH

Video Platform Lures Homemade Content-Producers With Huge Bounty

By April Ma

(Beijing) — A short-video platform is giving out 1 billion yuan ($145 million) in cash to makers of viral 15-second clips — such as a dog with a backpack walking on two legs, a man harvesting potatoes, or a clever culinary trick — hoping to spur viral video quality video-makers and draw traffic.

Beijing-based Huoshan announced the huge pot of cash Tuesday, which it will disburse to cyber celebrities and grassroots short-video creators of immensely popular 15-second clips. This makes Huoshan — the video arm of news and information aggregation app Toutiao — the latest company to enter the short-video battlefield, a fledgling sector seeking to attract top-notch user-generated content.

“The generators of short-video content want to make money, and if the platform doesn’t provide a means to do so, they will be forced to seek other channels,” Huoshan CEO Sun Zhi said.

Their recourse often is to profit off fans by selling substandard goods — such as shoddy facial-cleansing masks and nutrition supplements — via social-media networks like WeChat, Sun said. “This will harm the short-video platform in the long run,” he said.

Huoshan — which is Mandarin for “volcano” — predicts its recent batch of subsides will kindle a new round of cash wars among video platforms, similar to previous rivalries in ride-hailing and online-to-offline commerce.

“This year will be full of drama for short-video hosting companies,” Huoshan said in a statement.

The booming market for short original videos has manifested in capital gushing into the mobile-friendly entertainment format. In September, Huoshan parent company Toutiao, valued at $11 billion in April, announced it will offer up to 1 billion yuan in payments for its video channel, which offers three-to-five-minute homemade videos.

Huoshan’s announcement comes on the heels of a fresh $350 million round of funding into Kuaishou, a photo-sharing and livestreaming platform that is now pushing into short videos.

Competition for content intensified further when Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. elbowed into the sector, allotting 2 billion yuan to users who post short videos on its video site Tudou, which has recently broken off from traditional video-hosting services of sister brand Youku and been rebranded as a short-video platform.

Tudou, Huoshan and Kuaishou are all relative latecomers to a formerly niche market dominated by Yixia.com, a short-video and livestreaming platform that has been instrumental in reviving the fortunes of Nasdaq-listed Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. Weibo continued to soar in the first quarter this year with the help of short videos, which are effective in luring traffic and are favored by advertisers.

Investors rewarded Weibo’s $199 million quarterly revenue — nearly double that for the same period a year ago — with a 25% increase for the Nasdaq-listed company’s stock value at market close on Tuesday, a company record.

The microblogging site is ramping up its short-video functions as competition in the field intensifies. Beginning last month, Weibo began bumping up all user-generated videos to the top of its content streams, giving greater priority to original content.

Contact reporter April Ma (fangjingma@caixin.com)

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