iQiyi uses AI to improve video-creation efficiency, CTO says

iQiyi is China’s largest video-streaming site based on time spent on its platform. Viewers watched 4.395 billion hours of video in January, according to QuestMobile. We spoke with Wenfeng Liu, CTO of iQiyi, in New York City about AI and video streaming, and iQiyi’s plans for the future.

What is the top-ranking content on

Our consumers like high-quality content, such as TV dramas, movies, and variety shows. This is the most popular content on our platform. And we also have very popular content for kids, such as animation and comics.

How does AI help video creation?

Video is a major content format for us. AI is utilized to evaluate an IP, like the script format or novel format. We utilize AI to evaluate if the IP will be welcomed and popular, and the value of that to us. So that’ll help the decision maker decide if we should invest in that IP. Also, we utilize AI to help with the post-production of the video content. For example, if we produce content with a lot of cameras on one scene, and if there’s a lot of footage to be used for the final video, we use AI to recognize faces and convert voices to words so that we can generate the script very easily. We can then determine which shot will be better to use for the final version. So it can save a lot of time to improve efficiency.

We also use AI to identify potential casting for a show. So it can save time and the budget for the director to find a potential cast, with a limited budget. And we also use AI to help distribute. So there’s a lot of content and we have a lot of users. If a user doesn’t know which content he or she wants to see, we have AI to recommend content for them. It will improve the possibility of the user to find the right content. Also, we use AI to help advertisers find and reach the right audience so that they can improve their impression of their product or brand.

How much do you invest in AI at iQiyi?

AI is part of our technology investment and you can see all the tech people, the head count cost, in our financial report. We have hundreds of people in the algorithm team doing research on AI. And we have hundreds of people based on the algorithm working on the engineering part. So together, there are about 300 or 400 people working on the AI engineering doing the research, doing the engineering, to convert AI to an application that would be useful for our process.

Does iQiyi want to tap into the U.S. market?

We already have some users in the U.S. watching iQiyi. We have some content with copyright available in the U.S. And they also register on our account and buy our membership, and watch [our content] in the U.S. We plan to provide Mandarin content for people who are in favor of Chinese content. So the majority are Chinese people, but it’s also for foreigners who don’t speak Chinese but still want to watch. So we plan to use AI to translate some Chinese content with Chinese subtitles to English so that they can watch it more easily.

What’s next for iQiyi?

Last year, I mentioned that we released vertical videos on mobile in a portrait mode. One of the released videos included “Ugh! Life.” We do that because we noticed that a lot of people, about 52 percent of people, will lock the orientation to vertical mode. And most of the time when they use their phone, they’re keeping it vertical. So we think the vertical content of the phone is more immersive for people, especially at fragmented times. So we have that content “Ugh! Life,” which is our first professionally produced vertical video-exclusive short-form comedy series available online. And it has been very successful with younger people. This year, we plan to have more than 20 portrait-mode series available to customers. We think the key is how we can make the quality higher than the average of the market. We are focusing on the quality of our original and professional content to make sure our users, our viewers, will like it and watch it on our platform.