Form 20-F
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The stated amount of the contingent liability reflects Changyou’s best estimate as of December 31, 2019 and 2020 pursuant to ASC 450-20. Changyou may revise this estimate in the future based on developments in PRC bankruptcy court proceedings regarding Shanghai Jingmao.The reversal of income tax for preferential income tax rates that Changyou’s subsidiaries and VIEs were entitled to as KNSEs or Software Enterprises for 2018, 2019 and 2020 was included in the “Effect of tax holidays applicable to subsidiaries and consolidated VIEs” in the above table.The effective tax rate for 2018 was mainly due to additional income withholding tax of $47 million that was recognized in the first quarter of 2018 due to a revised policy for Changyou’s PRC subsidiaries with respect to their distribution of cash dividends. The revised policy was adopted to facilitate the distribution of a special cash dividend in the aggregate amount of approximately $500.0 million that was declared by Changyou’s Board of Directors on April 5, 2018. The change for 2020 was mainly due to additional income withholding tax of $88 million that was recognized in the second quarter of 2020 due to a revised policy with respect to Changyou’s PRC subsidiaries regarding their distribution of cash dividends.The Company adopted ASU 2016-13 using the modified retrospective transition approach. The adjustments arising from the new CECL model are recognized in the opening Consolidated Balance Sheet on January 1, 2020.The Group adopted ASU 2016-13 using the modified retrospective transition approach. The adjustments arising from the new CECL model are recognized in the opening consolidated balance sheet on January 1, 2020.The aggregated intrinsic value in the preceding table represents the difference between Sohu’s closing ADS price of $15.94 on December 31, 2020 and the nominal exercise price of the options.The aggregate intrinsic values in the preceding table represent the difference between Sogou’s closing price of $8.15 per Sogou ADS (each representing one Sogou Class A Ordinary Share) on December 31, 2020 and the exercise prices of the share options.The aggregate intrinsic value in the preceding table represents the difference between the closing price of $8.15 per Sogou ADS (each representing one Class A Ordinary Share) on December 31, 2020 and the exercise prices of the share options.The aggregate intrinsic values in the preceding table represent the difference between the closing price of $8.15 per Sogou ADS (each representing one Class A Ordinary Share) on December 31, 2020 and the exercise prices of the options.Of the total adjustment of $3.3 million, $2.5 million was related to financing receivables.The allowance for credit losses related to financing receivables was $6.4 million as of December 31, 2020.Sogou currently leases from Sohu, on an arms-length basis, office space at Sohu.com Internet Plaza under a lease that expires on December 31, 2022 and may be renewed subject to terms to be agreed to by Sohu and Sogou. 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Table of Contents
 
 
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
 
 
FORM
20-F
 
 
(Mark One)
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
OR
 
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020
OR
 
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
OR
 
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Commission file number:
001-38511
 
 
SOHU.COM LIMITED
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
 
 
N/A
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
Cayman Islands
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
Level 18, Sohu.com Media Plaza
Block 3, No. 2 Kexueyuan South Road, Haidian District
Beijing 100190
People’s Republic of China
(Address of principal executive offices)
Joanna Lv
Chief Financial Officer
Level 18, Sohu.com Media Plaza
Block 3, No. 2 Kexueyuan South Road, Haidian District
Beijing 100190
Telephone: (011)
8610-6272 6666
Email:
IR@sohu-inc.com
(Name, Telephone, Email and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
 
 
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
(Title of each class)
 
(Trading Symbol(s))
 
(Name of each exchange on which registered)
American Depositary Shares, each representing one ordinary share, par value US$0.001 per share
 
SOHU
 
The NASDAQ Global Select Market
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act:
None
 
 
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report: 39,306,323 ordinary shares, par value $0.001 per share, as of December 31, 2020.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    ☐  Yes     ☒  No
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.    ☐  Yes     ☒  No
Note – Checking the box above will not relieve any registrant required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 from their obligations under those Sections.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    ☒  Yes     ☐  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation
S-T
(§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).    ☒  Yes     ☐  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a
non-accelerated
filer, or an emerging growth company. See definition of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act.
 
Large accelerated filer
 
  
Accelerated filer
 
 
Non-accelerated filer
 
 
Emerging growth company
 
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  ☐
† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.  
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing.
 
U.S. GAAP  ☒           International Financial Reporting Standards as issued         Other  ☐
          by the International Accounting Standards Board    ☐        
If “other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow.    ☐  Item 17    ☐  Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule
12b-2
of the Exchange Act).    ☐  Yes      No
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.    ☐  Yes    ☐  No
 
 
 

Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
  
 
4
 
   
  
 
5
 
   
PART I
  
     
     
Item 1.
  
  
 
6
 
Item 2.
  
  
 
6
 
Item 3.
  
  
 
6
 
Item 4.
  
  
 
66
 
Item 4A.
  
  
 
113
 
Item 5.
  
  
 
114
 
Item 6.
  
  
 
147
 
Item 7.
  
  
 
156
 
Item 8.
  
  
 
161
 
Item 9.
  
  
 
161
 
Item 10.
  
  
 
161
 
Item 11.
  
  
 
171
 
Item 12.
  
  
 
172
 
   
PART II
  
     
     
Item 13.
  
  
 
173
 
Item 14.
  
  
 
173
 
Item 15.
  
  
 
174
 
Item 16A.
  
  
 
174
 
Item 16B.
  
  
 
174
 
Item 16C.
  
  
 
175
 
Item 16D.
  
  
 
175
 
Item 16E.
  
  
 
175
 
Item 16F.
  
  
 
175
 
Item 16G.
  
  
 
175
 
Item 16H.
  
  
 
175
 
   
PART III
  
     
     
Item 17.
  
  
 
175
 
Item 18.
  
  
 
176
 
Item 19.
  
  
 
177
 
     
  
 
  
 
184
 
 

Table of Contents
Introduction
In this annual report, except where the context otherwise requires and for purposes of this annual report only:
 
   
“we,” “us,” “our,” “our company,” “our Group,” the “Sohu Group,” the “Group,” and “Sohu” refer to Sohu.com Limited (or our predecessor Sohu.com Inc., as applicable), and unless the context requires otherwise, include its subsidiaries and variable interest entities. Sohu.com Inc., a Delaware corporation, was dissolved on May 31, 2018 and Sohu.com Limited, which before then was a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of Sohu.com Inc., replaced Sohu.com Inc. as the
top-tier,
publicly-traded holding company of the Sohu Group. See “Information on the Company-History and Development of the Company” in Item 4 of this annual report.
 
   
“ADSs” refers to our American depositary shares, each of which represents one ordinary share, par value $0.001 per share;
 
   
“Changyou” refers to Changyou.com Limited, a Cayman Islands company, and unless the context requires otherwise, includes its subsidiaries and variable interest entities, or VIEs;
 
   
“China” or “PRC” refers to the People’s Republic of China, and for the purpose of this annual report, excludes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan;
 
   
“DAU,” for active users quoted from iResearch, for any given month, refers to the average number of active users per day during that month. A user who uses the applicable product more than once in a day is counted as one active user for that day. Each distinguishable device or application is treated as a separate user for purposes of calculating such DAU;
 
   
“HNTE” refers to high and new technology enterprises;
 
   
“IVAS” refers to our Internet value-added services;
 
   
“IPO” refers to an initial public offering;
 
   
“KNSE” refers to key national software enterprises;
 
   
“Legacy TLBB Mobile” refers to a mobile game that Changyou developed based on the title and characters of Tian Long Ba Bu, which is operated by Tencent under license from Changyou and was launched in May 2017;
 
   
“MAU,” for active users quoted from iResearch, for any given month, refers to the number of active users during that month. A user who uses the applicable product more than once in a month is counted as one active user for that month. Each distinguishable device or application is treated as a separate user for purposes of calculating such MAU;
 
   
“Memorandum and Articles of Association” refers to our Amended and Restated Memorandum of Association and our Amended and Restated Articles of Association;
 
   
“MMORPGs” refers to massively multiplayer online role-playing games;
 
   
“Offshore” refers to nations and territories outside of Mainland China, and for this purpose includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan;
 
   
“Paid clicks” refers to the number of paid clicks, including clicks by users on advertisers’ promotional links displayed on Sogou’s search result pages and other Internet properties and third parties’ Internet properties;
 
   
“PC games” refers to interactive online games that may be accessed and played simultaneously by hundreds of thousands of game players through personal computers with local game
client-end
access software installation requirements. In previous annual reports, we have sometimes used the terms “MMOGs” and “MMORPGs” when referring to these
client-end
installed games played through personal computers;
 
   
“PRC GAAP” refers to generally accepted accounting principles of the PRC;
 
   
“RMB” refers to the Renminbi, which is the legal currency of China;
 
   
“Sogou” refers to Sogou Inc., a Cayman Islands company, and unless the context requires otherwise, includes its subsidiaries and variable interest entities, or VIEs;
 
   
“Sogou
Pre-IPO
Class A Ordinary Shares” refers to the Sogou Class A ordinary shares that were authorized and outstanding prior to the completion of Sogou’s IPO;
 
4

Table of Contents
   
“Sogou
Pre-IPO
Series A Preferred Shares” refers to the Sogou Series A Preferred Shares that were authorized and outstanding prior to the completion of Sogou’s IPO;
 
   
“Sogou Class A Ordinary Shares” refers to the Sogou Class A Ordinary Shares, which carry one vote per share;
 
   
“Sogou Class B Ordinary Shares” refers to the Sogou Class B Ordinary Shares which carry ten votes per share;
 
   
“Tencent” refers to Tencent Holdings Limited and its subsidiaries under International Financial Reporting Standards;
 
   
“Tian Long Ba Bu,” refers to the popular novel of that name by the famous Chinese writer Louis Cha;
 
   
“TLBB” refers to the PC game developed based on the title and characters of Tian Long Ba Bu;
 
   
“TLBB 3D” refers to a mobile game that was developed based on the title and characters of Tian Long Ba Bu;
 
   
“TLBB Honor” refers to another mobile game that was developed based on the title and characters of Tian Long Ba Bu, which adopts an innovative portrait interface;
 
   
“U.S. GAAP” refers to generally accepted accounting principles in the United States;
 
   
“U.S. TCJA” refers to the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law on December 22, 2017; and
 
   
“VIE” refers to an entity that is a variable interest entity under U.S. GAAP, including a subsidiary of an entity that is a variable interest entity under U.S. GAAP.
This annual report on Form
20-F
includes our audited consolidated statements of comprehensive income/(loss) for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019, and 2020 and audited consolidated balance sheets as of December 31, 2019 and 2020.
Our predecessor Sohu.com Inc. completed an IPO of shares of its common stock on NASDAQ on July 17, 2000. Following the dissolution of Sohu.com Inc. on May 31, 2018, our ADSs began trading on NASDAQ in place of the shares of common stock of Sohu.com Inc. under the same “SOHU” symbol under which Sohu.com Inc.’s shares had previously traded.
Changyou completed its IPO on NASDAQ in April 2009, trading under the symbol “CYOU.” On April 17, 2020, we acquired all outstanding shares of Changyou that we did not already beneficially own pursuant to the merger (the “Changyou Merger”) of an indirect newly-formed wholly-owned subsidiary (“Changyou Merger Co.”) with and into Changyou, with Changyou being the company surviving the Changyou Merger, and resulting in Changyou being delisted from NASDAQ and continuing as a privately-held company wholly-owned directly and indirectly by us.
Sogou completed its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”) in November 2017, trading under the symbol “SOGO.” On September 29, 2020, Sogou entered into a definitive agreement and plan of merger (as amended as of December 1, 2020, the “Sogou Merger Agreement”) with THL A21 Limited (“THL”), TitanSupernova Limited (“Tencent Merger Sub”), and Tencent Mobility Limited (“TML”), each of which is a direct or indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Tencent, that contemplates that Tencent Merger Sub will be merged with and into Sogou in an
all-cash
going-private transaction (the “Sogou Merger”). Also on September 29, 2020, we and our indirect wholly-owned subsidiary Sohu.com (Search) Limited (“Sohu Search”) entered into a share purchase agreement with Tencent Merger Sub (as amended as of December 1, 2020, the “Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase Agreement”), pursuant to which we agreed to sell all of the Sogou Class A Ordinary Shares and Sogou Class B Ordinary Shares owned by us to Tencent shortly before the effectiveness of the Sogou Merger (the “Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase”). If the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase is completed, we will no longer have any beneficial ownership interest in Sogou, and if the Sogou Merger is completed, Sogou will become an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Tencent and will no longer be listed on the NYSE. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—History and Development of the Company” for a more detailed description of the transactions contemplated by the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase Agreement and the Sogou Merger Agreement.
FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
This annual report on Form
20-F
contains “forward looking statements.” These statements are made under the “safe harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. You can identify these forward-looking statements by terms such as “may,” “will,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “future,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “estimate,” “is/are likely to” and similar expressions. The forward-looking statements made in this annual report relate only to events as of the date on which the statements are made. We undertake no obligation, beyond any that is required by law, to update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which the statement is made, even though our situation will change in the future.
 
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These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the following:
 
   
our ability to maintain and strengthen our position as a leading Chinese online media, game and search service group in China;
 
   
our expected development, launch and market acceptance of our products and services;
 
   
our various initiatives to implement our business strategies to expand our business;
 
   
our future business development, results of operations and financial condition;
 
   
the expected growth of and change in the online media, search and game industries in China
 
   
the impact of the completion or termination of the currently pending Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase and Sogou Merger described in “Item 4. Information on the Company-History and Development of the Company;” and
 
   
the PRC government policies relating to the Internet and Internet content providers, including online media, search and game developers and operators.
Whether actual results will conform with our expectations and predictions is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control, and reflect future business decisions that are subject to change. Some of the assumptions, future results, and levels of performance expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements we make inevitably will not materialize, and unanticipated events may occur which will affect our results.
Risks and uncertainties affecting the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase and the Sogou Merger include the possibility that they will not occur as planned if events arise that result in the termination of the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase Agreement and the Sogou Merger Agreement, or if one or more of the various closing conditions to the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase and the Sohu Merger, including anti-trust clearance of the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase under PRC law, are not satisfied or waived.
We would like to caution you not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements and you should read these statements in conjunction with all other parts of this annual report, including the risk factors set forth in Item 3. See “Key Information-Risk Factors”
PART I
 
ITEM 1.
IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
Not Applicable.
 
ITEM 2.
OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
Not Applicable.
 
ITEM 3.
KEY INFORMATION
Selected Consolidated Financial Data
The following tables present the selected consolidated financial information for our company. The selected consolidated statements of comprehensive income data for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019, and 2020 and the consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2019 and 2020 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included in this annual report beginning on page
F-1.
The selected consolidated statements of comprehensive income data for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2017 and our consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2016, 2017, and 2018 have been derived from prior-period consolidated financial statements that are not included in this annual report. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP. The selected consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with, and are qualified in their entirety by reference to, our audited consolidated financial statements and related notes and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” below. Our historical results do not indicate the results that may be expected for any future periods.
As of August 12, 2019, we deconsolidated Changyou’s cinema advertising business as a result of Changyou ceasing the business’s operations. Accordingly, the historical financial results of the cinema advertising business for periods from January 1, 2018 to August 12, 2019 are reflected in our audited consolidated financial statements included in this annual report as discontinued operations, and historical results discussed elsewhere in this annual report exclude such results unless they are expressly included.
 
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Because of our entry into the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase Agreement, the historical financial results of Sogou for periods from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2020 are reflected in our audited consolidated financial statements included in this annual report as discontinued operations, and historical results discussed elsewhere in this annual report exclude such results, unless they are expressly included. See “Item 4. Information on the Company-History and Development of the Company” for a more detailed description of the transactions contemplated by the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase Agreement and the Sogou Merger Agreement.
Selected Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income/(Loss) Data
 
    
Year Ended December 31,
 
    
2016
   
2017
   
2018
   
2019
   
2020
 
    
(In thousands, except per ADS data)
 
Statements of Comprehensive Income Data:
          
Revenues:
          
Brand advertising
   $ 450,448     $ 315,235     $ 232,339     $ 175,056     $ 146,526  
Online games
     395,709       449,533       389,788       440,902       536,684  
Others
     77,905       97,937       68,048       57,845       66,680  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total revenues
     924,062       862,705       690,175       673,803       749,890  
Cost of revenues (1):
          
Brand advertising
     371,066       363,624       184,473       126,406       105,604  
Online games
     96,168       62,775       60,981       88,992       91,526  
Others
     43,879       66,467       43,562       28,249       20,307  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total cost of revenues
     511,113       492,866       289,016       243,647       217,437  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Gross profit
     412,949       369,839       401,159       430,156       532,453  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Operating expenses:
        
Product development (1)
     219,121       245,536       246,155       234,852       241,941  
Sales and marketing (1)
     299,020       237,252       236,898       204,665       159,787  
General and administrative (1)
     94,964       86,448       70,129       54,591       57,354  
Goodwill impairment and impairment of intangible assets acquired as part of business acquisitions
     0       86,882       16,369       7,245       0  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Total operating expenses
     613,105       656,118       569,551       501,353       459,082  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Operating profit/(loss)
     (200,156     (286,279     (168,392     (71,197     73,371  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Other income/(expense), net
     19,832       13,207       30,701       7,963       25,993  
Interest income
     17,302       15,012       16,036       6,103       7,369  
Interest expense
     (1,356     (4,088     (17,538     (14,370     (6,234
Exchange difference
     7,456       (7,303     3,301       1,430       (3,800
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Income/(loss) before income tax expense/(benefit)
     (156,922     (269,451     (135,892     (70,071     96,699  
Income tax expense/(benefit)
     23,311       258,214       (14,586     28,428       133,226  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net loss from continuing operations
     (180,233     (527,665     (121,306     (98,499     (36,527
Net income/(loss) from discontinued operations, net of tax
     65,260       57,662       53,947       55,108       (91,793
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net loss
     (114,973     (470,003     (67,359     (43,391     (128,320
Less: Net income from continuing operations attributable to the noncontrolling interest shareholders
     46,031       14,050       41,732       58,223       18,448  
Less: Net income/(loss) from discontinued operations attributable to the noncontrolling interest shareholders
     63,017       70,473       50,991       47,722       (60,656
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net loss from continuing operations attributable to Sohu.com Limited
   $ (226,264   $ (541,715   $ (163,038   $ (156,722   $ (54,975
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net income/(loss) from discontinued operations attributable to Sohu.com Limited
     2,243       (12,811     2,956       7,386       (31,137
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net loss attributable to Sohu.com Limited
   $ (224,021   $ (554,526   $ (160,082   $ (149,336   $ (86,112
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Net loss
   $ (114,973   $ (470,003   $ (67,359   $ (43,391   $ (128,320
Other comprehensive income/(loss)
     (77,155     68,429       (37,339     (13,069     11,972  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Comprehensive loss
     (192,128     (401,574     (104,698     (56,460     (116,348
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
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Less: Comprehensive income attributable to noncontrolling interest shareholders
     78,824       117,960       61,376       93,244       (35,074
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Comprehensive loss attributable to Sohu.com Limited.
     (270,952     (519,534     (166,074     (149,704     (81,274
Basic net (loss)/income per ADS
          
Continuing operations
   $ (5.85   $ (13.94   $ (4.18   $ (3.99   $ (1.39
Discontinued operations
     0.06       (0.33     0.07       0.19       (0.79
Net loss per share
     (5.79     (14.27     (4.11     (3.80     (2.18
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Shares used in computing basic net (loss)/income per ADS
     38,706       38,858       38,959       39,249       39,452  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Diluted net (loss)/income per ADS
          
Continuing operations
   $ (5.89   $ (13.98   $ (4.20   $ (4.01   $ (1.40
Discontinued operations
     0.06       (0.32     0.07       0.18       (0.79
Net loss per share
     (5.83     (14.30     (4.13     (3.83     (2.19
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
Shares used in computing diluted net (loss)/income per ADS
     38,706       38,858       38,959       39,249       39,452  
  
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
(1)
Share-based compensation expenses are included in the following financial statements line items:
 
    
Year Ended December 31,
 
    
2016
    
2017
   
2018
   
2019
   
2020
 
    
(In thousands)
 
Cost of revenues
   $ 195      $ (342   $ (739   $ 142     $ 720  
Product development expenses
     3,570        7,078       (4,182     1,364       7,325  
Sales and marketing expenses
     578        1,614       (920     (326     460  
General and administrative expenses
     5,927        13,404       (6,267     1,170       5,975  
The negative amounts in the table above resulted from
re-measured
compensation expense based on the then-current fair value of the awards on the reporting date.
Selected Consolidated Balance Sheet Data
 
    
As of December 31,
 
    
2016
    
2017
    
2018
    
2019
    
2020
 
    
(In thousands)
 
Balance Sheets Data:
              
Cash and cash equivalents
   $ 764,731      $ 669,646      $ 634,310      $ 162,662      $ 217,057  
Restricted cash
     0        3,928        3,539        3,290        330,791  
Restricted time deposits
     240        240        244,150        240        101,519  
Working capital
     918,522        1,472,485        1,131,571        914,801        970,142  
Total assets
     2,592,450        3,442,985        3,372,956        2,691,864        2,822,121  
Short-term bank loans
     0        61,216        129,677        114,528        315,550  
Long-term bank loans
     0        122,433        302,323        0        92,000  
Total liabilities
     1,034,655        1,625,748        1,820,005        1,384,947        1,790,140  
Ordinary Shares: $0.001 par value per share (75,400 shares authorized; 38,742 shares, 38,898 shares, 39,229 shares, 39,269 shares, and 39,306 shares, respectively, issued and outstanding as of December 31, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020)
     45        45        39        39        39  
Total Sohu.com Limited shareholders’ equity
     993,580        750,634        588,840        428,454        347,369  
Noncontrolling interest
     564,215        1,066,603        964,111        878,463        684,612  
Total shareholders’ equity
     1,557,795        1,817,237        1,552,951        1,306,917        1,031,981  
 
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Risk Factors
Risks Related to Our Business
We are subject to the risks associated with operating in an evolving market.
As a company operating in the rapidly evolving PRC Internet market, we face numerous risks and uncertainties. Some of these risks relate to our ability to:
 
   
continue to attract users to remain with us and use our products and services as the primary means of surfing the Internet switches from traditional PCs to mobile phones and other portable devices;
 
   
continue to attract a large audience to our matrices of Chinese language content and services by expanding the type and technical sophistication of the content and services we offer;
 
   
maintain and develop a sufficiently large advertiser base for our brand advertising and search and search-related advertising businesses;
 
   
maintain and attract online game users by periodically updating our existing online games and developing and launching new online games;
 
   
increase the revenues derived from our
fee-based
services and products we offer online;
 
   
build our businesses such as Sohu Media Portal, Sohu Video, Focus, online games, search and search-related, and other businesses successfully;
 
   
attract and retain qualified personnel; and
 
   
effectively control our increased costs and expenses.
Our operating results are likely to fluctuate significantly and may differ from market expectations.
Our annual and quarterly operating results have varied significantly in the past, and may vary significantly in the future, due to a number of factors which could have an adverse impact on our business. Our online advertising revenue often fluctuates as our advertisers adjust their online marketing spending as their industries go through business and economic cycles. We rely on third-party providers for high-quality news, video, audio and text content in order to make our Internet platforms, which include our Websites and our applications optimized for mobile devices, or Mobile Apps, more attractive to users and advertisers. Over the years, video content costs have escalated sharply and have adversely affected our operating results. In an attempt to reduce these costs, we have gradually shifted our video strategy from purchasing expensive head content to self-producing content, which generally generates less user traffic and revenues than purchased content does and has adversely affected, and may continue to adversely affect, our brand advertising revenues. Sogou incurred substantial traffic acquisition costs to expand distribution of advertisers’ promotional links and advertisements by leveraging traffic on third parties’ Internet properties, and we expect such increases to continue. A significant portion of our online game revenue is attributable to Changyou’s PC game TLBB. However, the popularity of PC games continues to decline as game players have switched to mobile devices to access online games. Despite Changyou’s efforts to improve TLBB, our game players may nevertheless lose interest in it over time and TLBB’s popularity, revenues and profitability may decline accordingly. If Changyou fails to improve and update TLBB on a timely basis, or if Changyou’s competitors introduce more popular games, including mobile games, catering to Changyou’s game-player base, the decline in TLBB’s popularity can be expected to accelerate, which could cause a significant decrease in our revenues.
We have depended on revenues from Sogou’s search and search-related advertising services and from Changyou’s PC game TLBB and mobile game Legacy TLBB Mobile for a significant portion of our revenues, net income, and operating cash flow.
For the year ended December 31, 2020, 53% of our total revenues and 74% of our online game revenues were derived from TLBB and Legacy TLBB Mobile and if Sogou’s revenues had been included in our total revenue rather than as discontinued operations, 50% of our total revenues would have been derived from Sogou’s search and search-related advertising services. If Changyou’s revenues from TLBB and Legacy TLBB Mobile continue to decline as they have in recent years, or if Changyou’s online game revenues from games other than TLBB and Legacy TLBB Mobile do not grow or if they decrease, or if the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase and the Sogou Merger are not completed and Sogou’s search and search-related advertising revenues do not grow or if they decrease, our revenues, net income, and operating cash flows will be adversely affected. Furthermore, any interruptions in TLBB’s and Legacy TLBB Mobile’s operations, or, if the Tencent/ Sohu Sogou Share Purchase and the Sogou Merger are not completed, any interruptions in Sogou’s search and search-related advertising services, could cause significant decreases in our revenues, net income, and operating cash flow. For example, Sogou suspended part of its advertising services for 10 days in July 2018 in order to implement remedial measures to ensure compliance with government regulations following a government investigation into certain
non-compliant
advertisements created by a third party unrelated to Sogou and displayed on Sogou’s platform. See “Risks Related to Sogou Inc.—Risks Related to Sogou’s Business —Sogou may be subject to regulatory investigations and sanctions for inappropriate or illegal content that is accessed through its search results.”
 
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We face intense competition, which could reduce our market share and adversely affect our financial performance.
There are many companies that distribute online content and services targeting Chinese Internet users. We compete with distributors of content and services over the Internet, including content sites, Web directories, search engines, online games, Internet service providers and sites maintained by government, educational institutions and other institutions. These sites compete with us for user traffic, advertising dollars, online game players, potential partners and mobile services. The Internet market in China is rapidly evolving. Competition is intense and can be expected to increase significantly in the future, because there are no substantial barriers to entry in our market.
We have many competitors in the PRC Internet market, including among others Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, which are the three dominant Internet companies in China, as well as 58.com, Autohome, Beijing Kunlun Tech Co., Ltd., BitAuto, Bilibili, Ctrip, Douyin, Douyu, Fang, Giant Network Group Co., Ltd., Huya, IGG Inc., iQIYI, Kingsoft, Kuaishou, Leju, Mango TV, Meituan Dianping, NetEase, Perfect World Co., Ltd., Phoenix, Qutoutiao, Qunar, Sina, TouTiao, Wuhu 37 Interactive Entertainment Network Technology Group Co., Ltd., YOOZOO Games Co., Ltd., Youku, YY, and Zhejiang Century Huatong Group Co., Ltd. (formerly known as Shanda Games Limited). We compete with our peers and competitors in China primarily on the following basis:
 
   
access to financial resources;
 
   
gateway to a host of Internet user activities;
 
   
technological advancements;
 
   
attractiveness of products;
 
   
brand recognition;
 
   
volume of traffic and users;
 
   
quality of Internet platforms and content;
 
   
strategic relationships;
 
   
quality of services;
 
   
effectiveness of sales and marketing efforts;
 
   
talent of staff; and
 
   
pricing;
Our competitors may have certain competitive advantages over us including:
 
   
greater brand recognition among Internet users and clients;
 
   
better products and services;
 
   
larger user and advertiser bases;
 
   
more extensive and well
-developed
marketing and sales networks; and
 
   
substantially greater financial and technical resources.
Our existing competitors may in the future achieve greater market acceptance and gain a greater market share through launching of new products, introducing new technologies, or forming alliances among themselves, or may enhance their ability to compete with us through mergers and acquisitions or financing activities. For example, during the past few years, many of our competitors have successfully raised significant amounts of capital through IPOs,
follow-on
public equity offerings, and convertible bond offerings. Several of our competitors have also conducted private placements of equity or debt that included alliances with larger partners who are able to bring them strategic advantages in addition to financing. By enhancing their capital bases and forming strategic alliances, our competitors have strengthened their competitiveness and gained greater brand recognition. Recently some of our major competitors have engaged in or initiated transactions that could make it more difficult for us to compete against them effectively. For example, investments in Qutoutiao by Tencent in March 2018 and by Alibaba in March 2019 provided Qutoutiao with considerably greater strategic benefits than were previously available to it for developing and expanding its mobile content business, which benefits we are unlikely to be able to match.
In addition, in recent years the Internet industry in China has been increasingly dominated by Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. Alibaba and Tencent, in particular, have been able to expand their reach in the industry through acquisitions and by developing close ties with other Internet companies through equity investments and cooperative strategic relationships. These dominant companies may be able to further strengthen their influence in the industry by encouraging cooperation among the companies in which they invest or with which they establish strategic relationships. We may not be able to compete successfully and avoid marginalization in the industry if we are unable to develop our own comparable business ecosystem, which may be difficult for us to do in view of our relatively limited resources in comparison to these dominant companies.
 
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Further, new competitors may emerge and acquire significant market share. For example, high-quality smaller Internet companies have emerged in the Internet industry recently with competitive advantages over us, including that many are led by young entrepreneurs who have a particular understanding of the needs and interests of younger users and that, in view of their relatively small size, they are able to adapt more easily than we are to rapid changes in the industry by adjusting their product strategies, market focus, and profit models. Such smaller competitors compete with us in such areas as vertical content production, video playback, and live broadcast.
As a result, we are likely to need additional financial and additional strategic resources in order to compete effectively in the primary markets in which we operate. If our competitors are more successful than we are in developing products or in attracting and retaining users and advertisers, our revenues and growth rates could decline.
If we fail to successfully develop and introduce new products, features and services, our ability to attract and retain users and generate revenues could be harmed.
We are continually developing new products, features and services for our users. The planned timing or introduction of new products, features and services is subject to risks and uncertainties. Actual timing may differ materially from original plans. Unexpected technical, operational, distribution or other problems could delay or prevent the introduction of one or more of our new products or services. Emerging
start-ups
may be able to innovate and provide new products, features and services faster than we can. Moreover, we cannot be sure that any of our new products, features and services will achieve widespread market acceptance or generate incremental revenue.
In addition, we may experience difficulties in promoting our new products, features and services as a result of the significant market power of our competitors or any anti-competitive practices they might engage in. As a result, despite considerable efforts in this regard, we may fail to attract and retain users.
As our products and services are currently accessed primarily through mobile phones, tablets and other internet-enabled mobile devices, we believe that we must develop products and applications for such devices if we are to maintain or increase our market share and revenues, and we may not be successful in doing so.
Devices other than personal computers, such as mobile phones, tablets, wearable devices and other internet-enabled mobile devices, are used increasingly in China and in overseas markets, and have surpassed personal computers as the primary means to access the Internet in the key Chinese markets in which we operate. We believe that, for our business to be successful when our content and services are delivered over mobile devices, we need to design, develop, promote and operate products and applications that are attractive to users of such devices, as well as enhance targeted delivery of our content and advertising services to our users and advertising customers. The design and development of new products and applications, and our efforts to enhance the effectiveness of such targeted delivery, may not be successful. We may encounter difficulties with the installation of such new products and applications for mobile devices, such products and applications may not function smoothly, and algorithms we develop for targeted delivery may not be effective in identifying the interests and needs of our users and advertising customers. As new devices are released or updated, we may encounter problems in developing and upgrading our products or applications for use on mobile devices and we may need to devote significant resources to the creation, support, and maintenance of such products or applications for mobile devices.
Our business depends on a strong brand; thus we will not be able to attract users, customers and clients of our products and offerings if we do not maintain and develop our brands.
It is critical for us to maintain and develop our brands so as to effectively expand our user base and our revenues. We believe that the importance of brand recognition will increase as the number of Internet users in China grows. In order to attract and retain Internet users, brand advertising, search, online game and mobile customers, we may need to substantially increase our expenditures for creating and maintaining brand loyalty. Our success in promoting and enhancing our brands, as well as our ability to remain competitive, will also depend on our success in offering high quality content, features and functionality. If we fail to promote our brands successfully or if our users or advertisers do not perceive our content and services to be of high quality, we may not be able to continue growing our business and attracting users, advertisers, online game players and mobile users.
Our failure to keep up with rapid technology changes may severely affect our future success.
The Internet industry is undergoing rapid technological changes. Our future success will depend on our ability to respond to rapidly evolving technologies, adapt our services to changing industry standards and improve the performance and reliability of our services. If we fail to adapt to such changes, our business may be adversely affected. For example, with the emergence of cloud computing technology, the primary Internet technology platform has been transformed from a traditional platform to a cloud computing platform. If we fail to adapt to the transformation, our products and services upgrade process will fall behind our competitors, and accordingly weaken our capacity to adapt our technology to the market. Furthermore, cloud computing itself is a significant business opportunity. If we fail to seize the opportunity, we will lose our ability to capture a share of that market. In addition, as mobile devices other than personal computers are increasingly used to access the Internet, we must develop products and services for such devices. To meet advertisers’ needs in targeting potential advertisers accurately, we need to develop and operate a more effective system for our advertising delivery, tracking and recording. Otherwise, we will not be able to maintain or increase our revenues and market share. In the meantime, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (the “MIIT”) and other PRC governmental authorities can be expected to regularly promulgate standards and other regulations regarding Internet software and other Internet-based technologies. Adapting to any such standards and regulations could require us to make significant expenditures in the future.
 
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Our strategy of acquiring complementary assets, technologies and businesses or making other strategic investments may fail and result in impairment losses.
As a component of our growth strategy, we have acquired and intend to actively identify and acquire assets, technologies and businesses that are complementary to our existing businesses. Our acquisitions could result in the use of substantial amounts of cash, issuance of potentially dilutive equity securities, significant impairment losses related to goodwill or amortization expenses related to intangible assets, and exposure to undisclosed or potential liabilities of acquired companies. Companies that we have invested in could be adversely affected by the novel coronavirus disease
(“COVID-19”)
outbreak, which may lead to impairment in the fair values of our investments and in turn adversely affect our financial condition and operating results.
In 2017 Changyou recognized a $83.5 million impairment loss for goodwill and a $3.4 million impairment loss for intangible assets relating to the MoboTap business, which Changyou disposed of in 2018; in 2018 Changyou recognized a $16.4 million impairment loss for goodwill relating to the 17173.com Website; in 2019 Changyou ceased operation of its cinema advertising business and recognized a $17.0 million impairment loss related to the assets of the business. Also in 2019, Sohu recognized a $7.2 million impairment loss for a domain name related to the 56.com Website, and a total of $23.2 million in impairment losses for equity investments in a third-party entity.
We may be required to record a significant charge to earnings if we are required to reassess our goodwill or other amortizable intangible assets.
We are required under U.S. GAAP to test for goodwill impairment annually or more frequently if facts and circumstances warrant a review. Currently our brand advertising business is losing money, and goodwill will be impaired if the losses continue. We are also required to review our amortizable intangible assets for impairment when events or changes in circumstances indicate the carrying value may not be recoverable. Factors that may be considered a change in circumstances indicating that the carrying value of our amortizable intangible assets may not be recoverable include a decline in stock price and market capitalization and slower or declining growth rates in our industry. We may be required to record a significant charge to earnings in our financial statements during the period in which any impairment of our goodwill or amortizable intangible assets is determined. For example, we recognized impairment losses of $10.4 million, $4.0 million and $1.5 million, respectively, in 2018, 2019 and 2020 with respect to Sohu Video’s purchased video content.
Any changes in accounting rules for share-based compensation, or any changes we make in our employee share incentive plans, may adversely affect our operating results, our stock price and our competitiveness in the employee marketplace.
Our performance is largely dependent on talented and highly skilled individuals. Our future success depends on our continuing ability to identify, develop, motivate and retain highly skilled personnel for all areas of our organization. We have a history of using employee share options and restricted stock units to align employees’ interests with the interests of our shareholders and encourage quality employees to join us and retain our quality employees by providing competitive compensation packages. We have adopted guidance on accounting for share-based compensation that requires the measurement and recognition of compensation expense for all share-based compensation based on estimated fair values. As a result, our operating results contain a charge for share-based compensation expense related to employee share options and restricted share units. The recognition of share-based compensation in our statement of comprehensive income has had and will have a negative effect on our reported results and earnings per share, which can in turn negatively affect our ADS price. On the other hand, if we alter our employee share incentive plans to minimize share-based compensation expense, it may limit our ability to continue to use share-based awards as a tool to attract and retain our employees, which may adversely affect our operations. It is possible that there will be changes in the accounting rules for share-based compensation in the future that could have an adverse effect on our ADS price and our competitiveness in the employee marketplace.
Our failure to manage growth and adapt to evolving industry trends and business models could harm us.
The retention and growth of personnel requires significant time and resource commitments from us and our senior management. If we are unable to effectively manage a large and geographically dispersed group of employees or anticipate our future growth, our business could be adversely affected. As we have approximately 7,600 employees, it can be difficult for us to fully monitor each employee’s behavior. In addition, as we have several branch offices in China, it is harder for us to monitor and regulate the overall behavior of our branch offices or of individual employees at such branch offices, to effectively implement our strategy to local offices and to manage the growth of these local operations. We cannot assure you that we will be able to maintain policies and procedures that are rigorous enough or that we will be able to cause all of our employees or all of our branch offices to behave in conformity with those policies and procedures, or to ensure that our employees will not engage in conduct that could expose us to third-party liability or governmental sanctions, which may limit our future growth and hamper our business strategy. Additionally, our business relies on our financial reporting and data systems (including our systems for billing users of our
fee-based
services), which have grown increasingly complex, due to acquisitions and the diversification and complexity of our business. Our ability to operate our business efficiently depends on these systems, and if we are unable to adapt to these changes, our business could be adversely affected.
 
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Moreover, to keep pace with the rapidly developing and evolving Internet industry, we must continually explore new products, services or revenue models for our business. Since we may have limited experience in new business areas, we may fail to manage growth and adapt to industry trends and business models.
In addition, as the Internet industry has seen a significant shift from traditional personal computers to mobile devices, we must develop products and services that are adaptable to mobile devices so as to attract users and cause our existing users and advertisers to remain with us.
See “
-
As our products and services are currently accessed primarily through mobile phones, tablets and other internet-enabled mobile devices, we believe that we must develop products and applications for such devices if we are to maintain or increase our market share and revenues, and we may not be successful in doing so.”
If we fail to establish and maintain relationships with content, technology and infrastructure providers, we may not be able to attract and retain users.
We rely on third party providers for high-quality news, video, audio and text content in order to make our Internet platforms more attractive to users and advertisers. Our content providers may increase the fees they charge us for their content, which would cause our costs and operating expenses to increase and could affect our ability to obtain content at an economically acceptable cost. Video content purchase costs have escalated sharply in recent years. If we are not able to purchase or produce enough video content, the size of our video library will be reduced and our attractiveness to users will be severely impaired and advertisers may choose not to advertise through our Internet platforms. Except for exclusive content that we obtain from certain of our video content providers, much of the
third-party
content provided to our Internet platforms is also available from other sources or may be provided to other Internet companies. If other Internet companies present the same or similar content in a superior manner, it would adversely affect our user traffic.
We have made efforts to create a culture for user-generated content (“UGC”) and professional generated content (“PGC”), a
sub-category
of UGC where the content is created by a large group of professional or semi-professional content studios, that will allow and encourage Internet users to play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating content, and to encourage our users and other content providers to establish and disseminate their content through our Internet platforms. We increasingly rely on high-quality news, video, audio and text content provided by UGC and PGC providers to generate user traffic, retain our existing users and attract new users. If we are not able to continue to attract users or other content providers to establish quality content on our Internet platforms, or if the UGC and PGC providers on our Internet platform are not able to provide quality content that is appealing to Internet users in general, the volume of our user traffic may decrease and our business and prospects may be adversely affected. Also see “We may be subject to intellectual property infringement claims, which may force us to incur substantial legal expenses and, if determined adversely to us, materially disrupt our business.”
Our business also depends significantly on relationships with leading technology and infrastructure providers and the licenses that the technology providers have granted to us. Our competitors may establish the same relationships as we have, which may adversely affect us. We may not be able to maintain these relationships or replace them on commercially attractive terms.
We depend on key personnel and our business may be severely disrupted if we lose the services of our key executives and employees.
Our future success is heavily dependent upon the services of our key executives, particularly Dr. Charles Zhang, who is the founder, Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Board, and a major shareholder of our company. We rely on his expertise in our business operations. For Changyou, we rely heavily on the services of Dewen Chen, Changyou’s Chief Executive Officer. For Sogou, we rely heavily on the services of Xiaochuan Wang, Sogou’s Chief Executive Officer. If one or more of our key executives and employees are unable or unwilling to continue in their present positions, we may not be able to replace them easily and our business may be severely disrupted. In addition, if any of our key executives or employees joins a competitor or forms a competing company, we may lose
know-how,
key professionals and staff members as well as customers, suppliers and incur additional expenses to recruit and train personnel. Each of our executive officers has entered into an employment agreement and a confidentiality,
non-competition
and
non-solicitation
agreement with us. However, the degree of protection afforded to an employer pursuant to confidentiality and
non-competition
agreements governed by PRC law may be more limited when compared to the degree of protection afforded under the laws of other jurisdictions.
We also rely on a number of key members of our technology staff for our business. Given the competitive nature of the industry, and in particular our competitors’ increasingly aggressive efforts to provide competitive compensation packages to attract talent in the key Chinese markets where we operate, the risk of key technology staff leaving Sohu is high and could have a disruptive impact on our operations.
 
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Our growth may cause significant pressures upon our financial, operational, and administrative resources.
Our financial, operational, and administrative resources may be inadequate to sustain the growth we want to achieve. As the demands of our users and the needs of our customers change, the number of our users and volume of advertising increase, requirements for maintaining sufficient servers to provide high-definition online video and to provide game players smooth online game experiences increase, requirements for search traffic and users’ requirements as to the quality of search services increase, and mobile activities increase, we will need to increase our investment in our network infrastructure, facilities and other areas of operations. If we are unable to manage our growth and expansion effectively, the quality of our services could deteriorate and our business may suffer. Our future success will depend on, among other things, our ability to:
 
   
access financial resources;
 
   
adapt our services and maintain and improve the quality of our services;
 
   
protect our Internet platforms from hackers and unauthorized access;
 
   
continue training, motivating and retaining our existing employees and attract and integrate new employees; and
 
   
maintain and improve our operational, financial, accounting and other internal systems and controls.
Unauthorized use of our intellectual property by third parties, and the expenses incurred in protecting our intellectual property rights, may adversely affect our business.
We regard our copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets and other intellectual property as critical to our success. Unauthorized use of our intellectual property by third parties may adversely affect our business and reputation. For example, a third-party Internet platform operator might provide its users access to video content on our Internet platforms while blocking Internet advertisements embedded in our video content, which could adversely affect our advertising revenues and our reputation with our current and potential advertising clients. We rely on trademark and copyright law, trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements with our employees, customers, business partners and others to protect our intellectual property rights. Despite our precautions, it may be possible for third parties to obtain and use our intellectual property without authorization. For example, some of our self-developed Web series video productions were disseminated by third parties without our authorization. Furthermore, under the
Patent Law
, the State Council’s Patent Administration Department may grant a compulsory license to individuals or entities to use one or more of our patents if our exploitation of the patents has been determined to violate the antitrust laws. Furthermore, the validity, enforceability and scope of protection of intellectual property in Internet-related industries are uncertain and still evolving. In particular, the laws of the PRC and certain other countries are uncertain or do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as do the laws of the United States. Moreover, litigation may be necessary in the future to enforce our intellectual property rights, to protect our trade secrets or to determine the validity and scope of the proprietary rights of others. Future litigation could result in substantial costs and diversion of resources. We cannot be certain that judgments from the lawsuits will be issued in our favor, or that any resulting damages will cover our business losses and litigation expenses. If our campaigns and lawsuits against piracy do not achieve their intended effect, our business and operation may be adversely affected.
We may be subject to intellectual property infringement claims, which may force us to incur substantial legal expenses and, if determined adversely to us, materially disrupt our business.
We cannot be certain that the products, services and intellectual property used in our normal course of business do not or will not infringe valid patents, copyrights or other intellectual property rights held by third parties. We have in the past been, and may in the future be, subject to claims and legal proceedings relating to the intellectual property of others in the ordinary course of our business and have in the past been, and may in the future be, required to pay damages or to agree to restrict our activities. In particular, if we are found to have violated the intellectual property rights of others, we may be enjoined from using such intellectual property, may be ordered to pay damages or fines, and may incur licensing fees or be forced to develop alternatives. We may incur substantial expense in defending against third party infringement claims, regardless of their merit. Successful infringement claims against us may result in substantial monetary liability or may materially disrupt the conduct of our business by restricting or prohibiting our use of the intellectual property in question. In March 2008, we were sued by four major record companies, Sony BMG, Warner, Universal and Gold Label, which alleged that we had provided music search links and download services that violated copyrights they owned. Although the lawsuits were settled in 2013 without any payment of damages by us, we may be subject to similar lawsuits in the future. In addition, it is possible that content on our Internet platforms, which not only includes content developed by us but also provides a platform for a significant amount of content generated by others, may violate the intellectual property rights of third parties. As we produce more self-developed content for our Internet platforms as part of our new content strategy, we, as the primary provider of such content, may incur relatively higher monetary liability if such content is found to have infringed the intellectual property rights of third parties. Also, as we increasingly rely on content provided by third-party UGC and PGC providers on our Internet platforms, either developed by the outlets themselves or adapted from content of parties separate from such outlets, it will become increasingly difficult for us to fully monitor such content, which could make us more vulnerable to potential infringement claims. Furthermore, PRC governmental authorities have recently been drawing attention to issues regarding the infringement of online intellectual property rights. For example, a governmental program, called the “Jian Wang Campaign,” aimed at cracking down on network copyright infringement, has been in effect for several years. The Jian Wang Campaign for 2020, which targets copyright infringement related to the online transmission of games, music, and other copyrighted audio-visual works on or through
e-commerce,
online education, knowledge sharing, and other social platforms, and aims to strengthen the protection of online literature, application software, and other copyrighted content, was launched on June 12, 2020.
 
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We may be subject to, and may expend significant resources in defending against, claims based on the content and services we provide over our Internet platforms.
As our services may be used to download and distribute information to others, there is a risk that claims may be made against us for defamation, negligence, copyright or trademark infringement or based on the nature and content of such information. Furthermore, we could be subject to claims for the online activities of our users and incur significant costs in our defense. In the past, claims based on the nature and content of information that was posted online by users have been made in the United States against companies that provide online services. We do not carry any liability insurance against such risks.
We could be exposed to liability for the selection of listings that may be accessible through our Internet platforms or through content and materials that our users may post using our interactive services. If any information provided through our services contains errors, third parties may make claims against us for losses incurred in reliance on the information. We also offer
Web-based
e-mail
and subscription services, which expose us to potential liabilities or claims resulting from:
 
   
unsolicited
e-mail;
 
   
lost or misdirected messages;
 
   
illegal or fraudulent use of
e-mail;
or
 
   
interruptions or delays in
e-mail
service.
Investigating and defending any such claims may be expensive, even if they do not result in liability.
We may not have exclusive rights to trademarks, designs and technologies that are crucial to our business.
We have applied for initial registrations in the PRC and overseas, and/or changes in registrations relating to transfers of our key trademarks in the PRC, including Sohu.com logos, Sohu Fox logos, www.focus.com.cn, Sohu Focus, GoodFeel logos, Go2Map, Sogou’s name, trademarks relating to Sogou products such as Sogou Input Method, Sogou logos, trademarks relating to Changyou products such as ChangYou.com, cyou.com, New Blade Online, 17173, and the corresponding Chinese versions of the marks, so as to establish and protect our exclusive rights to these trademarks. Changyou has the right to use trademarks including TLBB, TLBB logos, and TLBB 3D for its PC game TLBB and its mobile games TLBB 3D and Legacy TLBB Mobile under Changyou’s existing license agreements with the holder of the intellectual property rights with respect to the popular Chinese martial arts novel Tian Long Ba Bu written by Louis Cha, who died in 2018. After the expiration of their terms Changyou may not be able to renew these license agreements with commercial terms that are favorable to Changyou, if at all, and Changyou’s inability to renew these license agreements could force Changyou to lose the right to use the trademarks related to those games to the extent that they relate to Tian Long Ba Bu. We have also applied for patents relating to our business. While we have succeeded in registering the trademarks for most of these marks in the PRC under certain classes, the applications for initial registration, and/or changes in registrations relating to transfers, of some marks and/or of some of marks under other classes are still under examination by the Trademark Office of the China National Intellectual Property Administration (the “CNIPA”) and relevant authorities overseas. While we have succeeded in obtaining some patents, some of our patent applications are still under examination by the Patent Office of the CNIPA. Approvals of our initial trademark registration applications, and/or of changes in registrations relating to such transfers, or of our patent applications, are subject to determinations by the Trademark Office of the CNIPA, the Patent Office of the CNIPA and relevant authorities overseas that there are no prior rights in the applicable territory. We cannot assure that these applications will be approved. Any rejection of these applications could adversely affect our rights to the affected marks, designs and technologies. In addition, even if these applications are approved, we cannot assure you that any registered trademark or issued patent will be sufficient in scope to provide adequate protection of our rights.
We may be subject to claims for invasion of personal privacy, which may force us to incur legal expenses and, if determined adversely to us, disrupt our business.
We allow users to upload written materials, images, pictures and other content on our platform and download, share, link to audio, video and other content either on our platform or from other Websites through our platform. Procedures that we have designed to reduce the likelihood that content will be used without proper licenses or third-party consents may not be effective in preventing the unauthorized posting or sharing of content. We cannot be certain that content uploaded or shared by our users is legal and will not violate the privacy of others, and we may be unable to anticipate the existence of such content on our platform or to implement adequate preventative measures. We may be subject to claims and legal proceedings relating to violations of the personal privacy of others in the ordinary course of our business and may be required to pay damages or fines or to restrict our activities. We are also subject to various regulatory requirements relating to the protection of personal privacy. See “Government Regulation and Legal Uncertainties - Miscellaneous - Laws and Regulations Related to Consumer Protection and Privacy Protection - Privacy Protection.” Complying with such requirements could cause us to incur substantial expenses or necessitate that we alter or change our practices in a manner that could harm our business.
 
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Information security breaches relating to our platforms could damage our reputation and expose us to penalties and legal liability.
We collect, process, and store on our servers significant amounts of data concerning our users. Although we have taken steps to protect our user data, our security measures could be compromised, because techniques used to sabotage or obtain unauthorized access to systems change frequently and generally are not recognized until they are launched against a target, and we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or to implement adequate preventative measures. In addition, we are subject to various regulatory requirements relating to the security and privacy of such data, including restrictions on the collection and use of personal information of users and steps we must take to prevent personal data from being divulged, stolen, or tampered with. Regulatory requirements regarding the protection of such data are constantly evolving and can be subject to significant change, making the extent of our responsibility in that regard uncertain. For example, the Internet Security Law became effective in June 2017, but the circumstances and standards for application of the law and what might be found to constitute a violation are unclear.
See “Government Regulation and Legal Uncertainties—Miscellaneous -
Laws and Regulations Related to Security and Censorship.” It is possible that our data protection practices are at present or will in the future be inconsistent with regulatory requirements.
Pending or future litigation could have an adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.
From time to time, we have been, and may in the future be, subject to lawsuits brought against us by our competitors, individuals, or other entities. For example, a group of plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against Changyou in the Cayman Islands claiming that they were entitled to assert dissenters’ rights in the Changyou Merger. The trial ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, and Changyou’s appeal of the trial court’s decision to the Cayman Court of Appeal is pending. There is also a putative class action lawsuit that was filed against Sohu.com Limited, Sohu.com (Game) Limited (“Sohu Game”), Changyou, and others in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York that alleges violations of U.S. securities laws in connection with the Changyou Merger.
Where we can make a reasonable estimate of the liability relating to pending litigation against us and determine that an adverse result for us from such litigation is probable, we record a related contingent liability. As additional information becomes available, we assess the potential liability and revise estimates as appropriate. However, due to the inherent uncertainties relating to litigation, the amount of our estimates may be inaccurate. While we do not believe that any currently pending proceedings are likely to have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, if there were adverse determinations in legal proceedings against us we could be required to pay substantial monetary damages or adjust our business practices, which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
We face risks related to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and health epidemics, such as the
COVID-19
pandemic.
Our business has been and could in the future be adversely affected by natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, and tsunamis; terrorist attacks and other acts of violence or war; social instability; and recurrences of outbreaks of previous health epidemics such avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (or “SARS”), the Zika virus, and the Ebola virus; or new outbreaks of health epidemics.
COVID-19
spread rapidly in 2020 to become a worldwide pandemic. In response to the emergence of the
COVID-19
virus, the Chinese government implemented several control measure that had a negative impact on the Chinese economy, and on our business, during the first half of 2020. For example, in the first quarter of 2020, our brand advertising customers curtailed their spending on online advertising, which had an adverse impact on our results of operations. In addition, some of our advertising customers required additional time to pay us, and such trends may continue during 2021. The extent to which
COVID-19
impacts our results of operations will depend on future developments, including the possibility of a resurgence of the
COVID-19
outbreak in China, which remain uncertain and difficult to predict.
We do not have business insurance coverage.
The insurance industry in China is still at an early stage of development. Insurance companies in China offer limited business insurance products, or offer them at a high price. As a result, we do not have any business liability, loss of data or disruption insurance coverage for our operations in China. Any business disruption, litigation or natural disaster might result in our incurring substantial costs and the diversion of our resources.
 
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The brand advertisement market includes many uncertainties, which could cause our brand advertising revenues to decline.
We generate a portion of our revenues from the sale of advertising for posting on our Internet platforms. Brand advertising revenues represented approximately 20% and 26% of our total revenues for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, sales to our five largest advertising agencies and advertisers accounted for approximately 27% and 28%, respectively, of our total brand advertising revenues. The growth of our brand advertising revenues relies on increased revenue from the sale of advertising for posting our Internet platforms, which may be affected by many of the following risk factors:
 
   
The advertising market is still evolving in China. Our current and potential advertising clients may not devote a significant portion of their advertising budgets to Internet-based advertising in general, or to us in particular;
 
   
Changes in government policy could restrict or curtail our brand advertising services. For example, during the last several years, the PRC government enacted a series of regulations, administrative instructions and policies to restrict online medical advertising. As a result of these regulations, we may lose some of our existing medical advertising clients. For another example, see “Government Regulation and Legal Uncertainties - Specific Statutes and Regulations - Regulation of Other Services - Real Estate Services” for a description of the Beijing Measures and other regulations affecting Focus’s business;
 
   
Advertising clients may adopt new methods and strategies other than brand advertising to promote their brand and therefore our advertising revenue would be negatively affected;
 
   
The acceptance of the Internet as a medium for advertising depends on the development of standards for measuring the effectiveness of advertisements disseminated over the Internet, and no standards have been widely accepted for the measurement of the effectiveness of brand advertising over the Internet. Industry-wide standards may not develop that are sufficient to support the Internet as an effective advertising medium. If these standards do not develop, advertisers may choose not to advertise on the Internet in general or through our portals or search engines;
 
   
We may not have systems that are sufficiently well-developed to support our brand advertising business, and as a result, we may suffer system bugs that cause bad user experiences errors or omission in publishing our client’s advertisements, which could have a negative impact on our brand advertising business.
In addition, our ability to generate and maintain significant brand advertising revenues will also depend upon:
 
   
the development of a large base of users possessing demographic characteristics attractive to advertising clients;
 
   
the acceptance of brand advertisement as an effective way for business marketing by advertising clients;
 
   
the effectiveness of our advertising delivery, tracking and reporting systems;
 
   
the resistance pressure on brand advertising prices and limitations on inventory; and
 
   
the establishment of a successful business model to make our new products adaptable to portable devices, which has required, and will continue to require us, to make significant expenditures for research, development, promotion and operations.
Many advertisers have shifted their PC online advertising budgets to advertising on mobile devices. Hence we must successfully optimize, adapt and make attractive our various product and service offerings for access on mobile devices and must effectively deliver advertising content in a manner that attracts and retains users’ interest and attention or our online advertising business will suffer.
The operation of our online video services requires us to make substantial expenditures for content, technology, infrastructure, and brand promotion. We may not be able to effectively contain these costs or sell sufficient advertising to recoup our continuing costs, and our relatively limited financial resources compared to those of many of our competitors in the online video market may prevent us from competing effectively.
It has been, and can be expected to continue to be, necessary for us to invest significant financial, operational, strategic, technological, personnel, and other resources for our online video services. Although we have attempted to control our expenditures for online video services, in part by using relatively more self-developed video content, which we produce in house or contract with independent
third-party
studios to produce for us, and relatively less content acquired from third parties, our total operating costs in this regard are still large, and continue to exceed the amount of our revenues derived from advertising on our online video platforms. Further, we compete with popular vertical online video sites, such as those operated by iQiyi, Tencent, Alibaba’s online video subsidiary Youku, and Mango TV, that have substantially greater financial resources than we do. These expenditures have had, and are likely to continue to have, an adverse impact on our operating results and have significantly strained, and can be expected to continue to strain, our resources. If we are unable to continue to expend the resources necessary to self-develop or acquire the rights to, and provide on our video platforms, quality video content, we may not be able to compete effectively against these other popular sites, or grow or maintain the level of our user traffic, which could make our video platforms less attractive to advertisers, have a negative impact on our ability to generate advertising revenues, and make it difficult for us to stem our losses from operation of our online video services or to recoup our substantial expenditures. In addition, when we obtain rights to video content from third parties we are often required to pay license fees upfront, prior to production of the content. There often are delays of several months, or sometimes up to two or three years, between our payment of such
up-front
fees and the time when we are able to offer fully-developed content online and begin to receive advertising dollars. These delays have often placed, and can be expected to continue to place, significant strains on our cash flow. Our
up-front
payments also subject us to a certain level of credit risk, as content producers to which we make such payments may fall into financial difficulties and be unable to deliver the content we have purchased.
 
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Further, when we purchase rights to the online versions of TV series, we generally rely on the expectation that the series will be broadcast on nationwide TV channels according to a specified schedule. If there are delays in such TV broadcasts, we will have to delay, perhaps indefinitely, our presentation of the online version of the series. We are also subject to the risk that TV content we purchase will be broadcast on less popular TV channels than expected, which would be likely to cause our online viewership and advertising revenues to be correspondingly lower than we expected.
As we continue a strategic shift from purchasing licensed video content to focusing on self-developed video content that we develop in house or contract with third parties to produce for us, we face the risk that such self-developed content may not be well received by viewers and/or fail to attract advertisers, and we may not be able to generate sufficient advertising revenues to stem our losses from our online video services or to ultimately recoup our costs.
With the goal of reducing our overall costs for our online video business, we have been making a strategic shift to reduce our purchase of licensed video content and focus more on self-developed video content, which generally requires relatively lower expenditures by us than those required for obtaining license rights from third parties. Accordingly, we have spent, and expect to continue to spend, significant resources on self-developed video content. We have also invested, and expect to invest in the future, in the production of movies and other content by selected independent third-party studios. However, we are subject to the risk that the quality of our self-developed video content, or movies or other content in which we invest, will not be up to our expectations or those of our target viewer audience. If our self-developed video content, or such movies and other content produced for us by third parties, are not well received by viewers and/or fail to attract sufficient advertising placements from advertisers, or if the development of any such content or movies is not completed as a result of financial, regulatory, or other restraints, we may not be able to recoup our production costs and other expenditures. In addition, if developing
in-house
content becomes more widespread in the online video business in China, we could face significant competition from other online video sites with respect to the acquisition of quality and popular intellectual property, such as story lines, plots, and characters, for use in such content, and the cost of obtaining such intellectual property would therefore be likely to increase.
We may not be able to reverse the decline in revenues from our online video business. If we fail to do so, Sohu Video may not be able to become profitable, in which case we will be unable to recoup our substantial expenditures for the development of our online video business.
Our brand advertising revenues in general, and the revenues of our online video business in particular, have declined in recent years. Although China’s online video industry has experienced substantial growth in recent years in terms of both users and content, we cannot assure you that the online video industry will continue to grow as rapidly as it has in the past, if at all. With the development of technology, new forms of media may emerge and render online video Websites or Mobile Apps less attractive to users. Growth of the online video industry is affected by numerous factors, such as users’ general online video experience, technological innovations, development of Internet and Internet-based services, regulatory changes in general, and regulations affecting copyright in particular, and the macroeconomic environment. If the online video industry in China does not grow as quickly as expected or if we fail to benefit from such growth by successfully implementing our business strategies, our user traffic may decrease, our advertising revenues may continue to decline, and our business and prospects may be adversely affected. For Sohu Video to become profitable, it will be necessary for us to both increase our revenues from Sohu Video and control or reduce our expenditures for video content and other costs. If Sohu Video fails to become profitable, we will be unable to recoup our substantial expenditures for the development of our online video business.
We rely on advertising agencies to sell our brand advertising services. As the brand advertising market in China is effectively controlled by a small number of large advertising agencies, such advertising agencies may be in a position to demand higher sales rebates or to delay payments to us, which would adversely affect our gross margin.
Most of our brand advertising services are distributed by advertising agencies. In 2020, for example, approximately 67% of our brand advertising revenues were derived from advertising agencies. In consideration for these agencies’ services, we are required to pay certain percentages of revenues as sales rebates. As the brand advertising market is effectively controlled by a small number of large advertising agencies, such advertising agencies may be in a position to demand higher sales rebates based on increased bargaining power, or to delay in payments to us, which could negatively affect our brand advertising growth and the timing of our collection of payments. During 2020 the biggest five advertising agencies in China contributed approximately 26% of our brand advertising revenues.
The expansion of Internet advertisement blocking measures may result in a decrease in our advertising revenues.
The development of Web software that blocks Internet advertisements before they appear on a user’s screen may hinder the growth of online advertising. For example, some Internet platforms allow their users to access video content from our Internet platforms, while completely blocking our advertisements from being viewed by their users. Since our advertising revenues are generally based on user views, the expansion of advertisement blocking on the Internet may decrease our advertising revenues because, when an advertisement is blocked, it is not downloaded from the server, which means such advertisements will not be tracked as a delivered advertisement. In addition, advertisers may choose not to advertise on the Internet or on our Internet platforms because of the use by third parties of Internet advertisement blocking measures. In addition, increasing numbers of browsers include technical barriers designed to prevent Internet information service providers such as us to trail the browsing history of the Internet users, which is also likely to adversely affect the growth of online advertising.
 
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If our video content fails to attract and retain users and advertisers, we may not be able to generate sufficient user traffic to allow us to maintain or increase our video revenues.
Our online video business largely depends on our ability to generate sufficient user traffic, through provision of attractive products, to in turn attract advertisers to place advertisements on our Internet platforms for video. In order to attract and retain users, we have needed, and will continue to need, to expend resources to develop our own or acquire from third parties’ high-quality video content, including films and TV dramas. In 2015 and 2016, we purchased significant amounts of exclusive video content, through which we generated user traffic and revenues by bartering for other video content from other parties or distributing to other third parties. As some films and TV dramas are required to obtain permits from the National Radio and Television Administration (the “NRTA”), the National Film Administration (the “NFA”), or their respective local branches before they are transmitted via the Internet, if we are not able to timely obtain the required permits, users might access pirated versions of such films and TV dramas and become less likely to view them on our Internet platforms when they become available, which would significantly affect the ability of our exclusive video content to attract and retain users, and cause our online traffic and advertising revenues to be lower than we expected. In recent years, our strategy has gradually shifted from purchasing expensive head content to self-producing content. We cannot assure you that we will continue to be able to acquire exclusive content rights or develop premium content in the future and our user traffic and revenues generated from such exclusive content rights and self-developed content could be reduced. Moreover, if we fail to produce by ourselves or acquire from third parties high-quality video content, or if video content we develop by ourselves or acquire proves to be less attractive to users than we anticipated, our user traffic and our market share could be adversely effected, which could result in our being unable to maintain or increase our video revenues.
Videos and other types of content and materials displayed on our Internet platforms may be found objectionable by PRC regulatory authorities, may subject us to penalties and other administrative actions, and may be subject us to liabilities for infringement of third-party intellectual property rights or other allegations.
The PRC government has adopted regulations governing Internet access and the distribution of videos over the Internet. In addition to professionally produced content, we allow our users to upload videos to our Internet platforms. Our users can upload all types of content, including user-created and professionally produced content, and can upload graphic files for limited purposes, such as updating user biographies. Although we have adopted internal procedures to monitor the content displayed on our Internet platforms, due to the significant amount of content uploaded by our users, we may not be able to identify all videos or other content that may violate relevant laws and regulations, and the risk may be greater as we increasingly rely on content provided by UGC and PGC providers through our Internet platforms, as we do not have an opportunity to fully review such content prior to its publication. Failure to identify and prevent illegal or inappropriate content, such as content that is defamatory, is racially or religiously discriminatory, compromises national security, or infringes the intellectual property rights of third parties, from being displayed on our Internet platforms may subject us to liability.
To the extent that PRC regulatory authorities find any content displayed on our Internet platforms objectionable, they may require us to limit or eliminate the dissemination of such content on our Internet platforms, with take-down orders or otherwise. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (the “SAPPRFT”), which in March 2018 was reorganized into three separate governmental authorities—the National Radio and Television Administration, the National Film Administration, and the State Press Publication Administration, prior to March 31, 2018 published, and one or more of those successor entities have published or can be expected to publish, from time to time lists of content that they consider objectionable, and we must dedicate teams of employees to continually monitor user-uploaded content and remove content that is deemed objectionable. In addition, regulatory authorities may impose penalties on us based on content displayed on or linked to our Internet platforms in cases of significant violations, including a revocation of our operating licenses or a suspension or shutdown of our online operations. In the event that PRC regulatory authorities find the video content on our Internet platforms objectionable and impose penalties on us or take other administrative actions against us in the future, our business and reputation may be adversely affected. Moreover, the costs of compliance with these regulations may continue to increase as more content is uploaded by our users.
In addition, under PRC laws and regulations governing online advertising, online publishers, such as us, are required to monitor advertising content displayed on their Internet platforms for accuracy, and for compliance with PRC law governing the dissemination of content over the Internet that is deemed to be unlawful or inappropriate. If we were found to have failed to fulfill our obligation to monitor the advertisements of an advertising customer, we could be subject to various penalties, including being prohibited from providing advertising services for advertisers in the entire industry of the customer.
For example, PRC governmental authorities required that we suspend our News Apps from the Apple App Store for two weeks during 2018, based on a claim that our News Apps had been displaying unlawful and inappropriate advertising content.
We have been involved in litigation based on allegations of infringement of third-party copyright and other rights, such as privacy and image rights, due to the videos displayed on our Internet platforms. See “Risks Related to Our Business - We may be subject to intellectual property infringement claims, which may force us to incur substantial legal expenses and, if determined adversely to us, materially disrupt our business.” While we have implemented internal procedures to review videos uploaded by our users and remove promptly from our Internet platforms any infringing videos after we receive infringement notifications from rights owners, due to the significant number of videos uploaded by users, we may not be able to identify all content that may infringe on third-party rights. Moreover, some rights owners may not send us a notice before bringing a lawsuit against us. Thus, our failure to identify unauthorized videos posted on our Internet platforms has subjected us to, and may in the future subject us to, claims of infringement of third-party intellectual property rights or other rights. In addition, we may be subject to administrative actions brought by the National Copyright Administration (the “NCA”) or its local branches for alleged copyright infringement.
 
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We may also face litigation or administrative actions for defamation, negligence, or other purported injuries resulting from videos and advertisements that we display on our Internet platforms. Such litigation and administrative actions, with or without merit, may be expensive and time-consuming and may result in significant diversion of resources and management attention from our business operations. Furthermore, such litigation or administrative actions may adversely affect our brand image and reputation.
Risks Related to China’s Telecommunications Infrastructure
The telecommunications infrastructure in China, which is not as well developed as in the United States, may limit our growth.
The telecommunications infrastructure in China is not as well developed as it is in the United States. Our growth will depend on the PRC government and state-owned enterprises establishing and maintaining a reliable Internet and telecommunications infrastructure to reach a broader base of Internet users in China. The Internet infrastructure, standards, protocols and complementary products, services and facilities necessary to support the demands associated with continued growth may not be developed on a timely basis or at all by the PRC government and state-owned enterprises.
We depend on China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom for telecommunications services, and any interruption in these services may result in severe disruptions to our business.
Although private Internet service providers exist in China, almost all access to the Internet is maintained through China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of the MIIT. We rely on this infrastructure and China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom to provide data communications capacity primarily through local telecommunications lines. Although the government has announced aggressive plans to develop the national information infrastructure, this infrastructure may not be developed and the Internet infrastructure in China may not be able to support the continued growth of Internet usage. In addition, we will have no access to alternative networks and services, on a timely basis if at all, in the event of any infrastructure disruption or failure.
We have signed Bandwidth Provision and Server Hosting Agreements with China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom. Under these agreements, we maintained servers in China to support most of our core services. However, as there are limited telecommunication infrastructure service providers, we may not be able to lease additional bandwidth on acceptable terms, on a timely basis, or at all. If we are not able to lease additional bandwidth, the development of our business can be affected.
To the extent we are unable to scale our systems to meet the increasing PRC Internet population, we will be unable to expand our user base and increase our attractiveness to advertisers and merchants.
As Internet volume and traffic increase in China, we may not be able to scale our systems proportionately. To the extent we do not successfully address our capacity constraints, our operations may be severely disrupted, and we may not be able to expand our user base and increase our attractiveness to advertisers and merchants. Even if we scale our systems proportionately, any unforeseen increase in traffic may disrupt our operations and make it difficult for our users to visit our Internet platforms, or even cause users to be unable to access our Internet platforms at all, which could result in a loss of users.
Unexpected network interruptions caused by system failures may result in reduced user traffic, reduced revenue and harm to our reputation.
Our Internet platforms operations are dependent upon Web browsers, Internet service providers, content providers and other Internet platforms operators in China, which have experienced significant system failures and system outages in the past. Our users have in the past experienced difficulties due to system failures unrelated to our systems and services. Any system failure or inadequacy that causes interruptions in the availability of our services, or increases the response time of our services, as a result of increased traffic or otherwise, could reduce our user satisfaction, future traffic and our attractiveness to users and advertisers.
Our operations are vulnerable to natural disasters and other events, as we only have limited backup systems and do not maintain any backup servers outside of China.
We have limited backup systems and have experienced system failures and electrical outages from time to time in the past, which have disrupted our operations. Our disaster recovery plan cannot fully ensure safety in the event of damage from fire, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, power loss, telecommunications failures,
break-ins
and similar events. If any of the foregoing occurs, we may experience a complete system shutdown. We do not carry any business interruption insurance. To improve the performance and to prevent disruption of our services, we may have to make substantial investments to deploy additional servers or one or more copies of our Internet platforms to mirror our online resources.
 
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Although we carry property insurance with low coverage limits, our coverage may not be adequate to compensate us for all losses, particularly with respect to loss of business and reputation that may occur.
Our network operations may be vulnerable to hacking, viruses and other disruptions, which may make our products and services less attractive and reliable, and third-party online payment platforms that we partner with may be susceptible to security breaches, which may damage our reputation and adversely affect our business.
Internet use can decline if any well-publicized compromise of security occurs. “Hacking” involves efforts to gain unauthorized access to information or systems or to cause intentional malfunctions or loss or corruption of data, software, hardware or other computer equipment. Hackers, if successful, could misappropriate proprietary information or cause disruptions in our service. We may be required to expend capital and other resources to protect our Internet platforms against hackers, and measures we may take may not be effective. In addition, the inadvertent transmission of computer viruses could expose us to a risk of loss or litigation and possible liability, as well as damage our reputation and decrease our user traffic.
Furthermore, we could be liable for security breaches of our users’ confidential information, such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, personal information and billing addresses, stored by the third-party online payment platforms that we partner with. Since our revenues are derived in part from such payment platforms, any security breach resulting from Internet payment transactions could damage our reputation and deter current and potential users from using our online services.
Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
Although the Sohu Group holds substantial amounts of cash and cash equivalents, a significant portion of such cash and cash equivalents is held by Sogou, and it can be difficult for Sohu to have access to the portion held by Sogou.
Sohu has made significant expenditures in recent years, and expects to continue to do so through the current fiscal year. Although we hold a significant amount of cash and cash equivalents in the Sohu Group, the amount of cash directly available to Sohu, without including cash and cash equivalents of our subsidiary Sogou, which are now included in assets held for sale in our consolidated balance sheets, is limited. As of December 31, 2020, Sohu and Changyou together held approximately $217.1 million in cash and cash equivalents; Sogou held approximately $287.2 million in cash and cash equivalents, which was included in assets held for sale in our consolidated balance sheet.
Sohu can obtain access, for use in its business, to cash held or generated by Sogou only through dividends paid by Sogou to its shareholders, or through loans made by Sogou to Sohu. Further, if the transactions contemplated by the Tencent/Sohu Sogou Share Purchase Agreement and the Sogou Merger Agreement are completed as planned, Sohu will no longer have any ability to access Sogou’s cash. In addition, payment of dividends by Sogou is subject to approval of the Board of Directors of Sogou. Moreover, cash held by Mainland China-based subsidiaries and VIEs of Sogou, and also of our wholly-owned subsidiary Changyou, can only be available for distribution by Sogou or Changyou as dividends to shareholders after compliance with restrictions and requirements imposed by PRC law, including PRC profit appropriation and PRC withholding tax, that will reduce the amount available for such subsidiaries and VIEs to distribute to Sogou Inc. and Changyou.com Limited for payment of dividends to their shareholders. Further, payments of such dividends by Sogou would reduce the cash and cash equivalents of the Sohu Group as a whole, as
non-controlling
shareholders of Sogou would be entitled to a pro rata share of such dividends. See “Risks Related to China’s Regulatory Environment
-Our
Offshore entities may need to rely on dividends and other distributions on equity paid by our Mainland China-based subsidiaries, including the Mainland China-based subsidiaries of our subsidiaries Changyou and Sogou, to fund any cash requirements those Offshore entities may have. Our Offshore entities may not be able to obtain cash from distributions because our subsidiaries and VIEs in Mainland China are subject to restrictions imposed by PRC law on paying such dividends or making other payments,” and “- Dividends we receive from our operating subsidiaries located in the PRC are subject to PRC profit appropriation and PRC withholding tax.”
Sohu’s ability to obtain loans from Sogou for use by Sohu in its business is subject to determination by the Board of Directors of Sogou that making any such loans is in the best interests of Sogou separate from Sohu.
Our interests in our wholly-owned subsidiary Changyou and in our controlled subsidiary Sogou could be diluted from the issuance of equity incentive shares.
Our percentage and economic interests in our wholly-owned subsidiary Changyou and in our controlled subsidiary Sogou could be diluted by the implementation and operation of existing or future equity incentive plans, or any equity issued by Sogou as consideration for acquisitions. For example, in August 2019 Changyou adopted a new share incentive plan that reserves Changyou Class A ordinary share for issuance, and in November 2017 Sogou adopted a share incentive plan that reserves Sogou Class A Ordinary Shares for issuance. These reserved shares, if and when issued, would reduce our percentage interests in Changyou and Sogou. The issuance of these reserved shares or the occurrence of any of such other dilutive events with respect to Changyou or Sogou in the future would cause our share of the earnings of the affected subsidiary to be reduced.
 
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In order to comply with PRC regulatory requirements, we operate our main businesses through companies with which we have contractual relationships but in which we do not have an actual ownership interest. If our current ownership structure is found to be in violation of current or future PRC laws, rules or regulations regarding the legality of foreign investment in the PRC Internet sector, we could be subject to severe penalties.
Various regulations in the PRC restrict or prohibit WFOEs from operating in specified industries such as Internet information, online game, mobile, Internet access, and certain other industries. We are a Cayman Islands company and, in order to comply with PRC regulatory requirements, we conduct our Internet and value-added telecommunication operations in the PRC through our VIEs, which are incorporated in the PRC and owned by Dr. Charles Zhang and/or certain of our other employees. Through a series of contractual arrangements, our VIEs, for which Sohu is the primary beneficiary, are effectively controlled by our indirect PRC subsidiaries.
The MIIT issued a circular in 2006 that emphasizes restrictions on foreign investment in value-added telecommunications businesses. In addition, a notice issued in 2009 by the SAPPRFT, the NCA, and the National Office of Combating Pornography and Illegal Publications states that foreign investors are not permitted to invest in online game operating businesses in China or to exercise control over or participate in the operation of such businesses through indirect means. While we are not aware of any internet company which uses the same or similar contractual arrangements as we do having been penalized or ordered to terminate operations by PRC authorities claiming that the arrangements constituted foreign investment in value-added telecommunication services or a kind of control over or participation in the operation of online game operating businesses through indirect means, it is unclear whether and how the various regulations of the PRC authorities might be interpreted or implemented in the future. For a detailed discussion of PRC regulations, notices and circulars with respect to such restrictions, see “Government Regulation and Legal Uncertainties—Specific Statues and Regulations - Regulation of Foreign Direct Investment in Value-Added Telecommunication