Caixin
May 12, 2017 05:32 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Hurled Wine Glass Shatters Any Illusion of Friendly Competition in Online-Video Sector

(Beijing) — Things were tense between two of China’s leading video streaming platforms. Then they brawled — with a shattered wine glass and wounded employee at a banquet dramatizing just how fierce competition has gotten in the online-video sector.

The trouble began with an invitation to a dinner event to employees of both Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Youku Inc., owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

According to Tencent’s portrayal, a Youku invitee “hit a Tencent employee with a wine glass for no reason at all.” But Youku said Tencent employees had incited the clash by hurling insults.

One blogger who claims to have witnessed the scene said it started when a Tencent employee — who possibly had been drinking — made derogatory remarks about Youku. Soon afterward came the sound of shattered glass, whose shards injured a Tencent employee.

The outburst has sparked much chatter on China’s social-media platforms and put a spotlight on tension between China’s leading video-streaming companies, which are vying to produce and purchase exclusive rights to the most popular shows of the season.

Tencent and Youku steadily remain among China’s top five video-hosting sites. Other robust competitors include Baidu Inc.-backed iQiyi, Sohu, and LeEco’s video sites. According to data by iResearch, Tencent Video and Youku placed second and third respectively after iQiyi, in monthly active users and average time spent on the site.

Youku is understandably frustrated of late. Of China’s 10 most-popular shows in January, only one was featured on Youku in addition to three other platforms, while five of the most-watched shows were available on Tencent.

“Arrogance does not mean they are strong, and our modesty does not make us weak. We could not hold back our anger, and the fault lies with us,” Youku President Yang Weidong said in a social-media post tinged with irony as he apologized for his employees’ behavior. “Our competition should be strictly professional. We cannot behave like children,” he said Thursday in the post on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

The dinner wasn’t the first time battles for top places by companies in China have turned into brawls.

In February, social-media users found themselves glued to their screens watching a video that went viral of a brawl between deliverymen from Ele.me and Meituan.com, who are battling for market share in the restaurant hot-delivery business.

Contact reporter April Ma (fangjingma@caixin.com)

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