Complete Look at the Top Players in the Chinese Video App Market

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Kevin Ford

June 18th, 2019

When you think about the video app environment in the Chinese market, you have to wonder how it is different from the Western app market. That’s why we’ve put together this complete guide showcasing all of the top video apps in China.

It’s important to note that Twitch and YouTube don’t exist in China. Still, the Chinese video market boasts of more users that the populations of Japan and the United States combined.

This year, the number of online video subscriptions in China will move beyond 300 million. That means one out of every five people has a short video app installed on their device.

A report was done by Entgroup titled, “Observations on the 2018 China Paid Video Market,” reveals that subscriptions grew 119% during the past three years. Considering that the rate of Chinese internet users only grew about 6%, you can see why these numbers are so staggering.

Now that we’ve shown you how popular the Chinese mobile video sphere is, it’s time to look at the top apps.

Chinese Company iQIYI Debuts On Nasdaq Exchange.  Source:


This video streaming app mixes paid subscriptions with ad revenue. It’s the perfect combination of a YouTube and Netflix platform.

iQiyi has been popular long before short video apps came to the market. By January, they clocked 645 million viewership hours. By next year, the company plans to add short video functionality as well. When they do this, they will effectively compete with their rivals.

Right now, the platform’s vast selection of movies, reality shows and TV series provide some viewing options that can’t be found elsewhere. In 2018, iQiyi invested more than $3 billion for content. That’s close to the amount spent by the top six broadcasters in China combined. On top of that, they’ve produced about 250 original titles and hold exclusive rights to many of the country’s favorite programming.


You might have also heard of Douyin called Tik Tok. It’s a newer platform and has only been around since 2016. Within one year, they boasted of more than 100 million users.

Because users can pair videos to their favorite music and then share the content, the app follows the same format as Vine, but with some improvements. The material features plenty of humor, dancing and lip syncing. Then, followers leave comments and like the content. Plus, it’s all easy to share.

At this time, Douyin reports 500 million active monthly users across the world. The app is found in 150 countries at this time. In China alone, one in every ten people access the app daily. In the beginning half of 2018, Douyin surpassed YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as the most downloaded iOS app.

Douyin directly targets new users in Tier 1 & 2 cities that are born after 1995.

Just like a Bytedance video mix, you will find two different short video apps currently targeting other age groups with their own marketing plans.


With almost a billion users in a territory, it’s clear that China has a massive mobile market. With its numbers, it contains the most significant domestic market worldwide.

China has something else going for it with the mobile market. Apps work well when they appeal to a specific city or region.

You see the same results in Europe with apps and games. In China, video platforms targeting a specific demographic or region tend to succeed.

That’s how we get to Houshan. It’s also called Vigo, which is a video app currently targeting new users from 24 to 49 years old. The users are also located in Tier 3, 4 and 5 cities.

Instead of going after the entire market, Huoshan carved out its niche by focusing on a particular group of consumers inside of China. Some people don’t find this strategy wise, but Huoshan is doing well without appealing to everyone in the country.


There’s another app looking to attract a particular region. Kuaishou is larger than Huoshan and is considered a top rival of Douyin.

It launched back in 2011, initially as a GIF maker. After that, it grew substantially; even beyond what was initially predicted. Users turn to the app to upload their short videos, live stream, sing karaoke and add filters.

Anyone living outside the bigger cities in China prefers this video app. It’s also become popular in Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Turkey and Russia.

130 million people utilize the app daily. That makes it the second most popular video app currently in the Chinese Apple Store.

Because of its popularity, the app gained attention from some social media big shots in China. It received a few investments during 2018 from Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, all of which are Chinese giants. This suggests that we might see it become bigger than Douyin during the next few years.


As influencers become more popular, there’s no longer a distinct line between content that’s professionally curated and what’s made on a whim.

YouTube, Twitch and Instagram influencers continue to raise the bar by producing higher quality content. As consumers spend more time interacting with professional content that’s funded by advertisers and brands, there’s not a clear line between what advertising is.

Xigua addresses that situation directly. Unlike Douyin, Kuaishou and Houshan, Xigua makes all professionally generated videos a priority.

Unlike its competition, the videos on Xigua tend to last longer than a couple of minutes. That allows the quality to be more professional and it gives off a higher end feel.

Considering that Xigua is also owned by ByteDance, who is Douyin’s maker as well; it should be no surprise that this app is doing so well.

The professional platform of Xigua is a contender to watch for in upcoming years. Now that ByteDance has invested in the longer form content, it’s likely we will see a Douyin partnership in the future.


We’ve seen other apps reach success by positioning themselves within specific age groups and regions in China. Now, we see through Bilibili that it’s also possible to do well by reaching out to particular cultural demographics as well.

It’s become a hub for many followers of the ACG (Anime, Comic and Game) culture in the country.

Sure, we’ve seen some other platforms appealing to the same demographics. Hooyah is an excellent example of that. Bilibili has something special going for it because it’s been able to successfully appeal to a cross-section of people.

Bilibili offers plenty with its content. On top of that, it has the “bullet-screen” that encourages social integrations between users.

At first Niconico, the Japanese website allowed video comments that went across the screen just like bullets. Then, Bilibili brought this platform to China. It’s seen as a more dynamic and interactive version of modern Twitch chats.

This feature continues to gain traction among other platforms. Still, Bilibili is the leader of this innovative technology among the smaller players.


Tencent Video

Tencent Video doesn’t need much introduction. It’s become the tenth most downloaded app, allowing it to surpass YouKu in mobile market share.

Why has it become so popular? Simply because of WeChat. This is the largest social media and messaging app. It’s a mobile portal for the Chinese to use the internet. To embed videos in any WeChat articles, the users must first download Tencent Video.

This nesting is the reason that Tencent Video is so popular, but it’s not the only one. The app also offers paid subscriptions to some inclusive content. This includes all of the series from HBO.

Tencent should reach 100 million paid subscribers sometime this year.


Tencent Video might have found lots of success through WeChat, but they aren’t the only platform to watch. If you remember that infamous controversy about Kuaishou and Douyin holding inappropriate content, then you know that WeChat banned any short video sharing across its platform. That’s when Tencent re-released Weishi.

It originally debuted back in 2013. After a short run, it went offline because it wasn’t growing. Once short videos became popular again, it was time to relaunch. This platform made it easy for users to post videos and share from the app directly to WeChat. Currently, it’s the only way users can share their short videos with WeChat.

Because of this, it’s ranking first on the free section of the China Apple App Store and continues to gain more traction in the short video segment.


If you want a Chinese YouTube, you want YouKu. The platform currently boasts of over 800 million videos viewed each day by its 500 million active monthly users.

Just like iQiyi and Tencent Video, it offers a subscription to reach exclusive content. Because of this, it’s a true contender among its competition. In fact, the subscriptions are a top reason that YouKu continues to increase its revenue. YouKu even secured the FIFA World Cup streaming rights.

Projections imply that there will be more original content coming soon. Plus, Alibaba Pictures is said to produce it. In the meantime, this platform has some licensing deals with Sony Pictures and NBC Universal to broadcast some Hollywood classics in the country.

Final Thoughts

What we’ve learned is that the video app segment in China will only continue to get larger, which is remarkable considering how big it already is. This offers an exciting opportunity for marketers. Still, there are some challenges to face in the process.

Because of the shock, the Chinese government is requiring all video platforms to introduce an anti-addiction parental control by next month.

This forces companies to adapt their tactics and marketing strategies once again.

Kevin Ford


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