ANAHEIM, United States — China’s largest technology companies are gunning for YouTube’s biggest stars.
The Qingteng Club, a group affiliated with social media and gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., will host executives and celebrities from the Chinese and US online video industries at a private event in California this week, according to attendees. The event, dubbed the East-West Forum, will take place at an Anaheim hotel down the street from VidCon, a convention for fans of online influencers.
Tencent, owner of the all-purpose Chinese app WeChat, is trying to encourage more US social-media stars to do business in the world’s number 2 economy. The opening panel of the event is titled “How Tencent could help your influencers’ businesses in China.” They have an edge over YouTube in tapping the burgeoning market: The Google-owned video service is blocked in the country.
The resurgent interest in American content coincides with a period of intense competition in the world’s largest online arena. The popularity of Douyin, China’s equivalent of TikTok, has shaken China’s technology industry, and companies like e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., search leader Baidu Inc. and Tencent have been forced to defend their turf.
Tencent, whose WeChat messaging service is used by a billion-plus people, has previously blocked links to Douyin. And IQiyi, a Netflix-style streaming service controlled by Baidu, is working on a competing app.
“East-West Forum is an exclusive event that brings leaders in tech and entertainment industry together from east and west to meet, to learn more about each other and build potential collaborations,” according to a statement by the Mars Summit, an organisation helping to host the event.
Some of the biggest names in Chinese social media are descending upon California this week as tensions with Washington run high over the Asian country’s technological ascendancy.
Executives from TikTok, owned by Bytedance Ltd., Tencent and Baidu are all speaking on panels at this year’s VidCon, which started as an event for people who post videos on YouTube to meet with fans. Celebrities sign autographs and host panels, while executives give keynote speeches. The convention has since expanded to include online platforms such as Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The East-West Forum will also bring together executives from Tencent, the founders of Chinese startups RED and Bilibili Inc., and online influencers Jordi and Azzy. It’s also expected to attract U.S. media executives from Fine Brothers Entertainment, which operates some of the most popular channels on YouTube.
“There is a very large, very senior delegation of Chinese executives at VidCon,” said Jasper Donat, a media executive and producer based in Hong Kong. “The fact that that’s happening is pretty big. It’s been hard to get a lot of China into America in recent years, and they are here in force.”
By Lucas Shaw; editors: Nick Turner and Edwin Chan.