Baidu Getting into Video?



paidContent reports today that private equity company Providence Equity Partners, one of the backers of Hulu, is rumored to be joining up with Baidu for a Chinese equivalent of the popular professional video content site. While China is the largest Internet population (350M) and a huge market for ad dollars in just about every online arena, it’s little wonder both the Chinese search giant and the American investment firm are interested. While Providence declined comment, other sources told PC the deal was already closed.

Reuters reports that the new video site would launch in the first quarter of this year. Providence will back it with $60M, while Baidu is fronting $10M. A recently-departed China Mobile executive is rumored to be the CEO of the new site.

Analysys International reports that the Chinese online video market was worth 162 million yuan ($23.73 million) in the third quarter of last year—again, little wonder these two companies are interested in the market. On the other hand, this is considerably less than the well-established US video advertising market, of which Hulu controlled some 10% (and commanded similar ad rates to TV). Could a Chinese Hulu take over the same proportion of the Chinese ad market (to the tune of $9.5M)?

Hard to say, of course. Before Hulu came along, it seemed doubtful that a site with such a model could succeed—but now it does appear to be successful, as well as a major source for online video content. Naturally, Providence and Baidu would need Chinese television stations and studios to sign on to create the professional content. And while the US isn’t the best counterexample here, China has a reputation for rampant online video piracy that may diminish the appeal (and the restrictions) of a site like Hulu.

What do you think? Can Baidu expand its empire successfully with this? Or is China just not the market for another Hulu?