IQiyi Hires Former Netflix Executive as Offline Cinemas Face Crisis

The appointee will oversee iQiyi's international business.

Author: Belinda Zhou   

IQiyi Inc. (Nasdaq: IQ) announced the appointment of a former Netflix executive for its international business as the film industry is undergoing retrenchment.

The Beijing-based company, dubbed "China's Netflix," said in a statement on Wednesday that Yu-Chuang Kuek will oversee iQiyi's global strategic planning, marketing, business development, and public affairs for its overseas business. Kuek will report to Xianghua Yang, the president of membership and overseas business group at the company. 

"Kuek's appointment is emblematic of iQIYI's global plans. iQIYI is a company with Asian roots, and global aspirations, that we are confident of realizing," Yang said in the statement.

Kuek served as vice president at California-based Netflix in 2016, focusing on its global launch and representing the company as a managing director for Asia Pacific.

IQiyi reported on May 18 that its total revenues were $1.1 billion in the first quarter, up 9% from the same period in 2019. To compare, Netflix announced $5.8 billion for the three months through March, up 28% year-over-year.

IQiyi launched its international application in June 2019 and in the same month, its video-streaming service hit a milestone of 100 million paying subscribers.

The company said that it plans to push into overseas markets including North America and Japan. In November 2019, the company announced its strategic partnership with Astro, expanding into local markets in Malaysia.

On Friday in New York, shares in iQiyi closed at $17.80 per share, down less than 1%. Its stock price dropped 16% since January.

Meanwhile, China's film industry is facing a crisis. More than 13,000 film and television-related companies have canceled registration in the national online enterprise system as of Friday. More than 3,000 companies in the film sector requested cancellation last month.

Thousands of offline cinemas in China under threat of closure. A report from China Film Association shows that the country's box office in the first quarter was 2.2 billion yuan ($319 million), down 88% year-over-year. Of the 187 theaters it surveyed, as many as 42% of the cinema operators were closed.

On March 20, 500 cinema groups were allowed to resume operations, but the film administration closed them down again on March 27.

The box office in the first two days after reopening hit 13,800 yuan ($1,971) and 31,000 yuan ($4,428), respectively. The average number of viewers per movie was less than one.