Chinese viewers still spend more time than anyone else watching online video, the Financial Times reported, though Danielle Bailey, head of Asia Pacific research at agency L2, told the paper that the trends in online video are beginning to move in other directions.
Youku Tudou is currently China's top video site with an estimated 500m monthly active users; for context, competitor Weibo, which is much like the micro-blogging service Twitter, has 340m.
The key trend of livestreaming, Bailey said "is dominating". She added that viewers are also flocking to "Vine-like videos where people and brands can produce content".
But despite the much-hyped rise of livestreaming in China, figures from iResearch revealed that on average, users continue to spend around four hours a month watching short videos, more than twice the hours spent on livestreaming.
And this trend toward short video appears to be hitting Youku Tudou. Data from L2, for example, show that, of the 75 global luxury brands tracked, the proportion which maintain an active brand channel on the site is down 16 percentage points in one year.
Furthermore, the YouTube-style service is losing out to platforms like Tencent's WeChat and Weibo, which Alibaba part-owns (31%).
Pre-roll ads do feature on some videos, but livestreaming has skewed toward integrating a commercial element into the content – hence the popularity of livestreamed fashion shows and celebrity clips. And a sign, said Bailey, of China's sophistication about connecting commerce.
"The end of all their digital roads leads to commerce in a way that does not happen in the West."
While Alibaba denies any decline in ad revenues or active accounts, Youku Tudou lost RMB 1.7bn last year. For smaller platforms, such as Miaopai, an emphasis on short-form has seen a boost in views as it fills the gap left by Youku.
L2 observed that, in like-for-like branded videos posted between December 2016 and April 2017, "Maiopai's advantage over Youku is clear … 73,700 more views per video".
Data sourced from Financial Times, Tech In Asia, L2; additional content by WARC staff