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Yahoo Japan chases Chinese rivals with new video platform

Roster of 200 influencers to produce how-to clips and other bite-sized content

Natty, a popular yoga instructor on Instagram, is one of several content creators producing video for Yahoo Japan's platform. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo Creators Program)

TOKYO -- Yahoo Japan launched a video platform dedicated to content from social media influencers, taking a chance on a field crowded with both established and emerging rivals in hopes of reviving its earnings.

The Yahoo Creators Program, announced on Oct. 30, focuses on 1- to 2-minute clips made by influencers and other creators under contract with the company. The content will then be shown on Yahoo Japan's homepage.

The program will also work with partners like UUUM, a talent agency for YouTube personalities, to assist with the creation of the videos.

The company aims to sign at least 200 creators and post more than 500 videos a month. It will not only stream short instructional videos and funny clips, but also create longer documentaries of about 10 minutes.

Video services are roughly divided into two types. The first is streaming platforms that offer relatively lengthy content like sports games, movies and original shows. Big names include Amazon.com, Netflix and CyberAgent.

Yahoo Japan, however, has its eye on platforms for short clips that are a few seconds to a minute long. These services, which often let users post and view content for free, are growing in popularity of late.

The company's consolidated operating profit has dropped each year since peaking at 224.9 billion yen ($1.99 billion) in fiscal 2015, and its share price has dropped 30% in the last year, amid growing competition in e-commerce from Amazon.com, Rakuten and flea market app Mercari. Video services are a key part of Yahoo Japan's comeback plan, but powerful rivals stand in its way.

With more than 1 billion users, YouTube, part of Google parent Alphabet, dominates the field. But Chinese rivals like TikTok and Bilibili are seeing rapid growth among people under 30, especially in Asia.

TikTok's monthly active users have risen to more than 500 million as it gains popularity with teens in China, Japan and the rest of Asia. Bilibili, which debuted on the Nasdaq in March, has surpassed 75 million monthly users. It recently formed a joint venture with Japan's Gree to stream content like anime in China.

The global market for video services is expected to reach $54.7 billion in 2020 from $31.7 billion last year, according to Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

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