PGC: Pretty Good Content?


When season 3 of QiPaShuo, a debate show targeting post 90’s, hit the screen last week it didn’t have a huge ad campaign to announce its arrival, yet it represents a phenomenon which is quietly revolutionising China’s small screens. This hugely popular show has humble roots as a ‘made for online’ property, with a budget to match. Yet it achieved 620M views in its last series, and has secured an estimated ¥300M in sponsorship revenue for series 3. With a loyal and engaged following, QiPaShuo’s scores on Douban were 9.2/10 for season 1 and 8.6/10 for season 2 – outperforming bigger-budget, bigger-screen rivals Running Man, Dad, Where Are We Going? and Voice of China. This is the story of how online video has created a multi-billion yuan industry called PGC, or Professionally Generated Content.

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PGC has come about thanks in part to the explosion of video platforms over the past years in China. With increasing competition for rights to host TV & film content, and an eager audience of viewers hungry for new shows to watch, a huge gap between demand and supply has triggered a need for good quality, professional content at a lower cost.

And how that gap is being filled! Over 15,000 PGC episodes published and 800 contracts reportedly signed between production firms and video platforms in 2015 alone. It’s such an area of focus that most sites are setting up their own PGC teams, with Tencent claiming to have supported 100 projects already.

The production team of QiPaShuo have also been lured away by ex iQiyi exec Ma Dong to form their own business, MEWE, which was valued at 2bn RMB in initial funding.


With more flexibility to explore niche areas, thanks to less budget risk, PGC is creating whole new genres and generating huge social followings.

It can move into areas which mainstream channels wouldn’t touch (for example the show “My Sex”, made by iVidea and hosted on 娱乐资本论 channel, which explores sexual & physiological knowledge and got over 200m clicks for series 1).

It can also explore deeper into very personal and complicated matters. “I see, Mom”, a series of short educational videos for moms, is one of the hottest properties in this area.


The PGC space creates an unprecedented opportunity for brands. A little like internet /tech start-up culture, new programming fighting to be the next ‘big thing’, means that funding is vital. In exchange for financial support, brands can expect a lot in return. Carat has seen a lot of success in this area, working with our clients, across different types of PGC content…

The Spin-Off: A no-brainer investment, when a successful property looks to expand content into new spaces. We worked with Trident and Tencent to bring “约吧好声音”, a spin off from The Voice of China to life in the online video space. As a title sponsor, Trident had more visibility and opportunity to build association than with a big-ticket TV sponsorship where they would be one of 10-20 brands involved.

The Sister Show: Riding the coattails of an existing programme. We created a series of short cooking education videos with famous chefs, making dishes which are a taste of home, using Lee Kum Kee’s ingredients. The content was owned and created specifically for the brand, but distributed on QQ’s popular cooking page “家宴” (The Feast), giving more content to the video site, and more control to the advertiser.

The Original Format: Working with Chivas and iQiyi, we helped to create a whole series “赢之有道” or Win The Right Way, which was based on Chivas’ global content strategy The Venture. Here we were able to address a problem for the platform – getting original programming ideas – and a problem for the client – a global content platform which does not easily fit to the China market.

There are many more great examples, from the large to the small.


After the fight for copyright on big international series & events, video sites are seeing demand for content increase exponentially. The investment in PGC will not end any time soon, especially as these sites now need to keep VIP subscribers happy.

We think there are some key considerations to making the most of the PGC opportunity for brands:

  1. Consider Content investment as early as possible, ideally as a long-term brand investment. Early visibility of opportunities to create & partner with PGC content means more availability, more chance to be exclusive, and more chance to have editorial influence
  2. Get to know your consumers. PGC has low marketing support from platforms, so relies on virality and word of mouth to become big. The closer you are to your consumers’ passions or concerns, the more likely you are to be successful
  3. Choose your partners carefully. Close relationships with producers and platforms (directly or through your agency) are key to driving extra value for brands, for getting sight of the best opportunities and for making the most of your investment.

PGC content can be a path to incredibly deep consumer engagement and understanding for brands, if it’s taken seriously and given time to come to life. To make the most of it, “content marketing” needs to be built around the consumers who make it successful.

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