PPLive: Huge, Profitable, and Barely Known

PPLive has so many seriously stunning numbers, it’s hard to choose which one to lead with. But I think 5 million concurrent live streamers might be it.

Let me back up. PPLive is sort of the Joost of China, in that its product is a peer-to-peer software client that delivers Internet television (both live and on-demand). But in part because few Chinese people have cable subscriptions, it already has 100 million installations and 20 million active users, who spend an average of 11 hours per week.

I spoke with James Seng, the company’s VP of international, after we appeared on a panel together at the Supernova conference in San Francisco today (see video embedded above). Only one member of the audience and one panelist had ever even heard of PPLive before the event. We at NewTeeVee had only written about the company in the context of it hosting sports, raising funding (the company has $25 million from Softbank China Venture Capital, BlueRun Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson), and getting sued.

But PPLive certainly seems worth writing about if its numbers are to be believed. The company has some 900 live channels and 700 videos on demand. It does have to compete with widespread piracy in China, but it offers old seasons of television, local TV programming, and plenty of sports video. It has content deals with CCTV, MTV, ESPN, Time Warner, the NBA and more. Seng’s general comment regarding the lawsuit was that PPLive licenses its content from partners, so the copyright issues are on their end.

Seng also said PPLive has some 250 employees and — OK this is seriously too much — is profitable. The company began showing advertisements on its content last year, and gets pretty low CPMs, but has enough viewer hours to make them count, said Seng.

Seng’s job is to get the word out about PPLive stateside and recommend whether it should launch locally, acquire a company that already has a U.S. presence, do a joint venture, or license out its technology. We’ll be watching to see what he decides.

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