Scalpers asking for extra tickets along Gongti West Road are close to fighting each other; excited fans rush out of restaurants without finishing their dinner: the biggest annual gala in China’s online entertainment industry, iQIYI’s “Screaming Night 2018,” is about to begin at Worker’s Stadium, a massive venue in downtown Beijing.

Screaming Night in numbers: 1.63 billion viewers, 3.46 million discussions

The gala was broken into categories covering TV series, music, variety shows, and film, and kicked off with hip-hop artist VAVA rapping on a radiant stage. As a rare female rapper, she’s scored some success as a standout contestant on Rap of China, the most successful and topical TV series produced this year by iQIYI, which is owned by search giant Baidu.

For the next musical act, iQIYI staged several newly-created rap stars, including After Journey (艾福杰尼), Huang Xu, imp (小鬼), and Rap of China co-champion Gai. This was an effort by iQIYI to demonstrate that they’ve brought hip-hop to mainstream recognition through their show, which attracted more than 2.7 billion viewers.

Rap of China producer Chen Wei and director Che Che both received awards at the event from Feng Xiaogang, one of China’s most famous film directors. (Feng’s latest film, Youth 芳华, comes out in theaters on December 15, and released an official hip-hop video featuring Rap of China contestant Tizzy T last week.) Chen Wei announced that there will be a North American division for Rap of China Season 2.

The gala was called “Screaming Night” in part to reference the various groups of crazy fans screaming for their beloved pop idols. There were also some reward recipients who didn’t receive the same raucous applause, but were rather honored based on search numbers, viewer numbers, box office statistics and user votes. Gao Yalin, producer of a popular 2017 TV series about the Chinese government’s anti-corruption efforts called In the Name of the People, thanked iQIYI for being open and boldly embracing different types of shows. (In the Name of the People doesn’t have an “internet vibe,” but was viewed 7.66 billion times on iQIYI.) 

Pop superstar Chris Lee

Emphasizing its high-quality licensed TV series and shows, iQIYI has set its aim on creating more original content, especially after it signed a licensing agreement with Netflix earlier this year. According to an official press release relating to iQIYI’s original content:

This year, iQIYI has produced original high-quality series like Tientsin Mystic (河神) and Burning Ice (无证之罪). These series are created at American-level production standards, with film-like quality, and have received good reviews and viewing numbers. As representatives of original content created by iQIYI, they have been licensed for streaming overseas, and will be presented on Netflix in the first quarter of 2018.

The press release continues:

To be a technology- and innovation-driven entertainment company, iQIYI has developed into a video platform that understands content, users and partners by using Artificial Intelligence.

So, will iQIYI become the “Netflix of China”? Only time will tell, but for now it can be said without question that iQIYI is leading China’s online entertainment industry.

A quick look at the people in the VIP section of “Screaming Night” seems to confirm this: iQIYI CEO Gong Yu was seated next to director Feng Xiaogang, as well as Han Sanping, former chairman of the China Film Group Corporation (one of the largest distributors and exporters of Chinese films), and Wang Zhonglei, co-founder of Huayi Brothers Media Corp (a Chinese entertainment company founded in 1994 that owns a film studio, television production company, talent agency, record label, and movie theater chain):

Impressive company, indeed.