Profile: Sohu.com Inc (SOHU.O)
17 Jun 2013
Sohu.com Inc. (Sohu), incorporated in August 1996, is a Chinese online media, search, gaming, community and mobile service group. The Company operates matrices of Chinese language Web properties, and it operates multi-player online games and Web-based games in the People’s Republic of China. Its businesses consist of the online advertising business, the online game business, the wireless business and the others business, among which online advertising and online games are its core businesses. Its online advertising business consists of the brand advertising business, as well as the search and others business. Its brand advertising business offers products and services, such as free of charge premier content, interactive community and other competitive Internet services to its users, and provides advertising services to advertisers on its matrices of Chinese language Web properties consisting of sohu.com, a portal and online media destination; focus.cn, a real estate Website; and 17173.com, a game information portal. On December 15, 2011, the Company sold assets associated with the business of 17173.com (the 17173 Business), a game information portal in China to Changyou.com Limited (Changyou). On August 1, 2011, The Company acquired Focus Yiju Network Information Technology Co., Ltd. (Focus Yiju). On May 11, 2011, Changyou acquired, through its VIE Gamease, 68.258% of the interests of 7Road Technology Co., Ltd. (7Road).
The Company’s brand advertising business offers advertisements on its Web properties to companies. Its search and others business, provided by its search subsidiary Sogou Inc. (Sogou), offers customers pay-for-click services, priority placements in a search directory, and online marketing services on the Sogou Web Directory. Its online game business is conducted through Sohu’s subsidiary Changyou, which is an online game developer and operator in China. Changyou engages in the development, operation and licensing of online games, including massively multi-player online games (MMOGs) and Web-based games. Changyou developed and operates MMOGs Tian Long Ba Bu (TLBB) and, through licensees, operates DDTank, which is a multi-player Web-based shooting games in China.
The Company’s wireless business offers mobile related services through different types of wireless products to mobile phone users. The mobile related services consist of the provision of content, such as news, weather forecasts, chatting, entertainment information, mobile games, mobile phone ringtones and logo downloads. The content is purchased from third party content providers. The wireless products consist of short messaging services (SMS), Ring Back Tone (RBT), interactive voice response (IVR) and mobile games. Its others business includes sub-licensing of licensed video content to third parties and offering cinema advertisement slots to be shown in theaters before the screening of movies.
Online Advertising Business
The Company’s brand advertising business falls into fits categories: online portal, online video, vertical sites, and community and communication products. Sohu portal consists of Chinese language Web navigational capabilities, a range of main content channels, and Web-based communication and community services. It offers a range of free channels, which provides comprehensive content. Sohu Video is an online video service provider in China. It delivers licensed professionally produced video content and original in-house produced video content. It provides users free access its video content library, such as domestic and overseas television dramas, movies, television programs, documentaries, news, animations, entertainment related contents, live television Webcasts, in-house produced shows and programs, and user-generated content. It also offers selected content, such as movies and educational content on its advertisement-free paid channel.
Focus.cn is a real estate Websites in China, providing solutions for house seekers, homeowners, potential property or household appliance buyers with high incomes, and real estate professionals. Focus.cn provides new home and existing home information and develops thousands of homeowner’s online forums in over 100 cities across China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The 17173.com Website provides news channels, which cover topics of interest to game players, including news channels for MMOGs, Web-based games and Flash games, community pages for game player unions, and game pages for different online games.
Communication and community services help users to build customized space and personalized page layouts and offer information sharing and real-time communication. It offers a range of communication and community tools for its Chinese online users, which is promoting user affinity to its portal network micro-blog, message boards, blog and e-mail.
Micro-blog enables the Company’s users to follow topics being discussed online, as well as discussions related to people they know. Message Boards allow users to post and exchange information on message boards covering 50 topics, including education, travel, fashion, sports and all-news Web pages. Blog is an interactive platform for users to build their personalized space by posting their articles and pictures, uploading videos, and sharing information among users. In addition, Sohu blogs provide multiple applications for user-customized front page layouts, interactive communication facilities and services integrated with a selection of Sohu products. E-Mail offers free e-mail services with up to two gigabytes of memory and mail services with different features.
The Company provides brand advertising services across its matrices of Web properties. Its offerings enable advertisers to post their advertisements in different forms, including textual, rich media and video advertisements, and in different locations across the Sohu matrix of Web properties. Its brand advertising products include banners, links, logos, buttons and stream advertisements placed on its Websites and sponsorships, which focus on a particular event or a particular Website area. It charges advertisers on a time basis with fixed fees. It also adopted a Cost Per Click (CPC) pricing model and a Cost Per Impression (CPM) pricing model. During the year ended December 31, 2011, approximately 2,600 companies advertised on its Websites. Its customers include multinational companies, which have operations in Chinese markets, as well as Chinese domestic companies.
Sogou.com, which means Search Dog, is Sohu’s search engine. Upon a search query, the user is taken through an interactive process to reach integrated Website and page search results. Sogou Browser is its self-developed browser. Sogou browser has features, including embedded playing of Web video, quick proxy functions for education networks, smart address bar, privacy protection mode, and a column for the most-visited Websites. During 2011, it launched a new version of Sogou browser, which accelerates browsing speeds and adds Web page update notification feature, as well as an online shopping security protection function. Sogou Web Directory is a Chinese Web directory navigation site which serves as an access point to Websites and applications. Online marketing services on Sogou Web Directory consist of displaying links to Sogou’s advertisers’ Websites on the Web pages of Sogou Web Directory. Sogou Pinyin is the Company’s self-developed Chinese character input method software, with a vocabulary database that is tied to the search queries database of the Sogou search engine and can capture the latest trends in words used by Internet users.
Online Game Business
The Company’s online game business is conducted through Changyou. Changyou is an online game developer and operator in China by its games TLBB and DDTank. Changyou engages in the development, operation and licensing of MMOGs, which are interactive online games, which may be played simultaneously by game players, and Web-based games, which are played over the Internet using a Web browser. Changyou operates several MMOGs in China, including the in-house developed TLBB and Duke of Mount Deer (DMD) and other MMOGs, which Changyou has licensed from third parties. As of December 31, 2011, Changyou’s MMOGs in China had approximately 175.5 million aggregate registered accounts. Changyou also licenses DDTank, a Web-based game developed by Changyou’s variable interest entity (VIE) 7Road. TLBB is licensed to third-party operators in Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand. DDTank is licensed to third-party operators in China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brazil. Changyou also operates a modified version of TLBB in the United States and certain European countries. All of Changyou’s games are operated under the item-based revenue model, where game players play the games for free but can purchase virtual items.
TLBB is an in-house developed 2.5D martial arts MMORPG adapted from Chinese novel, Tian Long Ba Bu. TLBB features a combination of martial arts-style-fighting and community-building among its game players. As of December 31, 2011, Changyou has developed 21 expansion packs. DDTank is a two dimensional (2D) Q-style Web-based shooting game developed by Changyou’s VIE 7Road. Players use keyboards to control weapons to compete with others, using different weapons to produces different firing effects. The game features a master and apprentice system, a card system, and customization options for avatars. DMD is an in-house developed three dimensional (3D) martial arts MMORPG. The game recreates Louis Cha’s final martial arts world with cartoon-style graphics, supported by 3D animation engine. The Blade Online (BO) series consist of two 2.5D martial-arts style fighting MMORPGs, BO, which Changyou licensed from a third party, and BH2, which is a sequel of BO. Both games are martial arts-style fighting games set to the backdrop of a Chinese myth. In BO, game players can set their own rules for in-game fighting and take on various roles, including a human, an evil spirit or an immortal in the game. Each role has different skill sets that can be learned and improved by completing different tasks. BH2 incorporates features of BO, as well as features, such as maps, characters, fighting techniques and additional team-combat functions to give players a more intense and realistic fighting experience. DHSH is a 2D Q-style, turn-based MMORPG, which Changyou licensed from a third party.
SJQY is a 2D cartoon-style turn-based MMORPG, which Changyou licensed from a third party. Adapted from the novels, Journey to the West, it engages game players in martial arts combat and other activities, such as gardening and home building.
Changyou has several MMOGs and Web-based games in its pipeline with different graphic styles, themes and features. Games in Changyou’s pipeline include the MMORPG Tao Yuan and the Web-based game Shen Qu, which Changyou is developing in-house, and the massively multi-player first-person shooter game (MMOFPS) (MMOFPS is a subset of the MMOG category) Battlefield Online, which Changyou licensed from a third party.
Tao Yuan is a 3D cartoon-style turn-based MMORPG adapted from the stories of Three Kingdoms heroes. The game is created using the Unreal3 game engine and features cartoon-style characters and 3D graphics. The game incorporates traditional Chinese culture, such as five elements, divination inquiry and Chinese acupuncture treatment, into its gameplay design. Battlefield Online is a MMOFP developed from Electronic Arts Inc.’s Battlefield franchise, a series of first-person shooter games, for the personal computer (PC). Battlefield Online is focused on the fights for interests between the Empire and the Commonwealth. The game allows players not only to compete in small teams in group battles and raids, but also to participate in large-scale combat of up to 100 players. In addition, sub-categories of battle classes can be found in Battlefield Online. Shen Qu is a 2.5D real time strategy Web-based game set against a western universe, which is being developed by Changyou’s VIE 7Road. The game focuses on the exploration of cities and instances. When exploring instances, players can experience diverse playing modes, including chasing, escaping and counterattacking, and finally become the overlord of an area.
Wireless Business and Other Business
The Company’s wireless business offers mobile related services through different types of wireless products to mobile phone users. The mobile related services consist of the provision of content, such as news, weather forecasts, chatting, entertainment information, mobile games, mobile phone ringtones and logo downloads. The content is purchased from third party content providers. The wireless products consist of SMS, RBT, IVR and mobile games. Its other businesses includes sub-licensing of licensed video content to third parties and offering cinema advertisement slots to be shown in theaters before the screening of movies.
The Company competes with Sina Corporation, Tencent Holdings Ltd., NetEase.com, Inc., YouKu Inc., Tudou Holdings Limited, Beijing Xin Lian Xin De Advertising Media Co., Ltd., SouFun Holdings Limited, China Real Estate Information Corporation, Bitauto Holdings Limited, Bitauto Holdings Limited, Guangzhou Hua Duo Network Technology Co., Ltd., Pacific Online Limited, Yahoo! Inc., Microsoft Corporation, AOL Inc., Qihoo 360 Technology Co., Ltd., Baidu, Shanghai Ruichuang Internet Technology Development Co., Ltd., Google, Qihoo, Maxthon International Limited, Mozilla Corporation, Shanda Games Limited, Perfect World Co., Ltd., Giant Interactive Group Inc., NetDragon Websoft Inc., Kingsoft Corporation Limited, The9 Limited, Shenzhen ZQGame Co., Limited, Taomee Holdings Limited, Beijing Guangyu Huaxia Technology Limited, Guang Huan Zhong, Hangzhou Bianfeng Technology Limited, Shanghai Game Reign Network Technology Limited, Play Town Entertainment Limited, Tian Shen Hu Dong Limited, Sichuan Tianshang Youjia Technology Limited and Suzhou Snail Electronics Limited.
7-15F, Sohu.com Internet Plaza
No.1 Park Zhongguancun East Road
BEIJING BEJ 100084