Toodou.com: Digital entertainment from and for China
Marc van der Chijs, co-founder Toodou.com

In October 2004 the idea was born to set up a Chinese-language website
where users could easily publish and download their personal audio and video
files. This site, Toodou.com, went live in April this year and became
popular very quickly, because of its ease of use and wide variety of
available content.

Currently the site has about 100,000 registered users,
with a growth rate of about 10% per week. The core digital entertainment services that Toodou.com offers are video and audio files that can be streamed or downloaded automatically to a computer or personal entertainment system (iPod, mobile phone etc.).

It offers users a huge variety of different self-made programs, from short documentaries to music videos, and from cooking lessons to people showing their city. People can submit their files and watch programs for free. It can be compared to time-shifted TV or radio: you can listen or watch whenever you want not only at home, but everywhere you go. Next month Toodou.com will start offering a service to directly stream files to mobile phones.
Infrastructure for digital entertainment.


In order for the digital entertainment industry to really take off in
China a good infrastructure is essential. High-speed digital networks are a
prerequisite for this, especially in the big cities where most people have
Internet access. This can be done either by a network of cables or by
offering wireless web access all over the city. The government could do this
themselves or give incentives to corporations to offer this. Important is
that the infrastructure will be cheap enough to use for the average user,
meaning low or no user fees.

Speed is important for content that is streamed through the worldwide web.
The fact that over half the Chinese Internet population now has access to
broadband is a big opportunity. It allows the delivery of higher-quality
content with less disruption. The high bandwidth will be an incentive for
the entertainment industry in China to further develop applications that
require high-speed connections.

In order to get a faster development of the digital entertainment industry
it is important that China uses the same standards as the rest of the world.
Developing own standards that may work better, may actually hinder the
development: The past has learned us that it should not be assumed that the
rest of the world will follow once a new, better standard has been
developed.

Nationwide Internet access

Although over 100 million people in China have Internet access, this is
still less than 10% of China's population. Out of these 100 million people
more than 50 million have at least a college or university degree.

Most of
these 100 million users are young people living in the big cities on China's east coast. This means that the distribution of users is very skewed, and that digital entertainment cannot reach a large part of the population. This gap between young vs. old and educated vs. not educated is a challenge that the government could possibly do something about. Just like getting every town and village TV and radio access several years ago, this time the goal can be to get the internet to the countryside. With easy-to-use computers and online teach-the-teacher programs this might be achieved.

Digital future

Toodou.com sees it as its goal to make it easier for Chinese users to find the content and information they are looking for, and to share their films and other programs with the outside world. We think this will help the digital entertainment consumption grow. Eventually we foresee a merger of TV, radio, and mobile phones with digital internet content. Through our site we hope to facilitate this development and prepare China for a digital future.

 


(October 12, 2005)

 
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