SPOT.ph Roadtest: Is iQiyi the Next Hub for Streaming Asian Content?

You can never have too many sources of Asian entertainment!

iqiyi streamiing platform
PHOTO BY iQiyi ILLUSTRATION War Espejo

(SPOT.ph) Two years of the pandemic have turned us into streaming buffs. What can we say? We were already couch potatoes before this, and our watching habits have only evolved since then. With more streaming platforms becoming available in the Philippines, figuring out which to keep can be a hardship. If you love Asian dramas and variety shows, Chinese platform iQiyi is probably already on your radar. It isn’t a new player by any means—it’s been around since 2010—but it only started venturing into foreign markets in 2020. Should you start streaming shows on iQiyi? Read on for our take.

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Also read: The Ultimate Subscription Guide: Which Streaming Service Should You Get?

Pricing

Much like popular streaming platform Viu, which also occupies the Asian entertainment niche, iQiyi offers a lot of its content for free. You don’t even need to make an account to start streaming. The downside is you’ll have to deal with watching a few ads before you get to your video, but that’s pretty standard fare for free content nowadays. Upgrading to a VIP account gets rid of the ads and gives you privileges like exclusive content, early episode access, Blu-ray video quality, and downloading capability. At just P29/month for two screens (or P49/month for four), we think that’s a good bargain.

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Interface

iqiyi streamiing platform
PHOTO BY iQiyi App
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You can stream videos on the iQiyi website, but it promotes the app as the best option for fast playback and downloads. The app displays content customized “For You” by default. Scrolling down gives you trending shows, upcoming content, and themed selections. Different top bar links let you browse through more choices. “Local Favorites,” for example, focuses on teleseryes like Legal Wives and The World Between Us. The “Explore” tab allows users to filter by region, category, and year of release. It’s standard but fairly handy if you’re not looking for a particular title but would like to narrow down your choices.

iqiyi streamiing platform
PHOTO BY iQiyi App
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iqiyi streamiing platform
PHOTO BY iQiyi App

Streaming using the video player is easy, and you have options to change video quality, adjust the playback speed, skip the titles and credits, and go full screen. Subtitles are available in multiple languages; you can even suggest and submit edits to the subs if you notice any glaring errors. Overall, the experience is pretty smooth for a free user.

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Available Titles

iQiyi’s library is perfect for Asian drama lovers, especially fans of Korean and Chinese dramas. You’ll find classics like Full House, Secret Garden, and Boys Over Flowers as well as recently finished and currently airing titles like Jirisan, PLOT Love, and Unforgettable Love. You’ll also see some Thai, Malaysian, and Japanese dramas on the list. iQiyi isn’t just about the dramas, though. It’s got variety shows and movies on its roster, too. If you’re looking for a gateway to Chinese reality shows (like their local audition shows à la Korea’s Produce 101

iqiyi streamiing platform
PHOTO BY iQiyi App
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iqiyi streamiing platform
PHOTO BY iQiyi App
iqiyi streamiing platform
PHOTO BY iQiyi App
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iqiyi streamiing platform
PHOTO BY iQiyi App

Interested in checking out iQiyi but don’t know where to start? We’ve selected five titles for you to kick things off. 

Put these iQiyi movies, dramas, and shows on your watch-list:

Yumi’s Cells (2021)

Yumi’s Cells isn’t your ordinary Korean rom-com. In this drama’s unique world, people have different cells in their brains that help them make decisions. Ever wonder why you’re reaching for that midnight snack? You might have a giant Hunger Cell (with a tteokbokki antenna), just like the drama’s protagonist, Kim Yumi (Kim Go Eun). She’s an office worker whose last relationship has made her wary of love. Will her cells approve of new challenger Goo Woong (Ahn Bo Hyun), a scruffy game developer trying to melt Yumi’s heart?

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Jirisan (2021)

This K-drama is one of the most highly anticipated dramas of the year with a sky-high budget and a cast full of A-listers. It’s only available to stream on iQiyi outside of Korea. Touted as an action mystery, Jirisan revolves around the rangers of Jirisan National Park and their daily challenges saving people’s lives. Kingdom cast members Jun Ji Hyun and Ju Ji Hoon reunite as two rangers who become partners. Jun plays talented but hard-headed park ranger Seo Yi Kang who unexpectedly finds a kindred spirit in Ju’s Kang Hyun Jo, a former military captain who becomes a newbie ranger.

Jujutsu Kaisen (2020)

Based on the popular manga by Gege Akutami, Jujutsu Kaisen is all about Itadori Yuji, a high school freshman whose life changes when he swallows one of the 20 fingers of cursed spirit Ryomen Sukuna to save his friends. As Sukuna’s host, Yuji has no choice but to get exorcised along with him and die. But thanks to his unique ability to withstand the curse, his execution is suspended. First, he has to complete a mission: Find and eat the rest of Sukuna’s fingers to get rid of the spirit for good.

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Unforgettable Love (2021)

If you’re looking for something light and fun that will make you smile, this cute C-drama adapted from the web novel Mr. He’s Love Is Not Forgotten should be right up your alley. A mix between a rom-com and a family drama, it tells the story of He Qiao Yan (Miles Wei), a CEO and a struggling single dad to his son, Xiao Bao (Lennon Sun). When he meets Qin Yi Yue (Hu Yi Xuan), a child psychologist, and Xiao Bao calls her “mom,” Qiao Yan convinces Yi Yue to enter a contract marriage with him. The premise is a trope as old as time, but it works. The sweet family dynamics are enough to give you a toothache.

Youth With You Season 2 (2020)

If you enjoy survival audition shows like Produce 101, which spawned iconic groups like I.O.I, Wanna One, and IZ*ONE, try watching Youth With You, a Chinese audition show with the goal of debuting a group. We find season 2 the most fun because the female trainees have such strong and varied personalities. BLACKPINK’s Lisa happens to be on the judges’ panel, too, so you might want to check this out if you’re a BLINK. Note: If you watched the recently concluded Girls Planet 999 (also on iQiyi), a Korean audition show that puts Korean, Chinese, and Japanese trainees together, you’ll find that plenty of Youth With You contestants are also there.

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Verdict: We think it’s safe to say that iQiyi is definitely worth a try if you’re an Asian pop culture aficionado. K-drama fans looking to expand their horizons will find much to be excited about. The library looks promising with more titles getting added regularly. Most of its content is already free, and if you do decide to upgrade and try going VIP, the price won’t hurt your pocket.

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