Bilibili, also known as B-site (B站), is a popular Chinese video streaming platform founded in 2009. In the beginning, it was a small and niche business concerned with the creation and sharing of videos about the Anime, Comics, Games and Novels (ACGN) subculture. However, over the years, Bilibili gained popularity and enriched its content, quickly becoming a giant in the entertainment industry.
What is Bilibili
One of the top companies in the Art & Entertainment industry
Bilibili is the third-ranking platform by traffic share in the world’s Arts & Entertainment industry after Youtube and Netflix and the first one in the Animations & Comics sub-category. In the month of April 2023 alone, it counted 938.9 million visits. On average, users explored 11.81 pages per visit, spending overall 96 minutes on the platform.
By the end of the fourth quarter of 2022, the platform had reached a 29% increase in Daily Active Users (DAUs) compared to the same period in 2021. Similar results have been achieved in regard to Monthly Active Users (MAUs) and Monthly Paying Users (MPUs), recording 20% and 15% respectively. These impressive figures contributed to net revenue of RMB 21.9 billion, solidifying the company’s position as a major player in the entertainment industry.
Bilibili’s main areas of profit are divided into four categories: mobile games, Valued-added Services (VAS), advertising, and e-commerce. All of these registered a consistent YoY increase, except the mobile games area, which decreased by around 1% compared to the previous year.
Mobile games: from the company’s driving force to a side business?
In 2017, Bilibili’s revenue was predominantly driven by its mobile games segment, reflecting the company’s significant investments in popular ACG video games. In this regard, the Japanese strategy game Fate/Grand Order played a pivotal role in this success, contributing to around 70% of the total revenue.
However, in recent years, the company shifted attention toward other services, such as live broadcasting and the premium membership program. As a result, the gaming sector suffered from a few drawbacks. To address these challenges, CEO Rui Chen announced that he would personally oversee the management of the gaming department, aiming to improve its current state. One of the new strategies adopted to relaunch the business is promoting self-developed products, like Higan: Eruthyll, Bilibili’s first developed game. The game launched its pre-registrations in November 2022.
The platform shifts towards pay-per-view
Unlike Youtube, which mainly profits from advertising, Bilibili is known for featuring free-to-watch videos without intrusive banners disrupting the user’s viewing experience. This kind of approach was viable in the early stages, when the company’s content primarily consisted of pirate streaming anime and mobile games. Today, content creators invest more effort into their work and demand fair compensation through a more comprehensive monetization system, which values both original creators and newcomers. An answer to this problem would be the introduction of the pay-per-view option, which has already been adopted for a couple of video series like “The world’s top 10 unsolved mysteries” and “Three basic skills one must master before becoming a programmer”. Will this new feature become a standard practice?
The rapid growth of Bilibili in China: what makes it so special?
Bilibili is often compared to the Western giant Youtube, due to their similarities as video and live streaming platforms capitalizing on User Generated Content (UGC) and Professional User Generated Content (PUGC). However, the Chinese platform’s identity targets a very specific portion of the audience: the young generation. Over 70% of the users fall within the age group of 18 to 34 years, encompassing the tech-savvy Millennial and Gen Z.
A safe place for all sub-communities
Originally, Bilibili’s content mainly revolved around video games, anime, and comics, clearly targeting the ACGN community, known in China under the name 二次元 (erciyuan), which translates to 2-dimensions. Over the last years, the ACGN community has experienced a remarkable surge in popularity, and Bilibili has become the go-to place for them to gather. Nevertheless, Bilibili has become more than just a place for ACGN lovers. It now offers a wide array of videos, encompassing various topics such as lifestyle, technology and general knowledge. It has become a virtual space where China’s many subcultures can express themselves, successfully fostering a sense of community and loyalty among its users. The app further strengthens this perception thanks to its real-time comments feature, called 弹幕 (danmu), which allows users to interact with each other while watching episodes or videos.
How brands can leverage Bilibili in China:
As a platform catering to the younger generation, Bilibili offers plenty of opportunities for brands to build awareness among this target audience. Nevertheless, there are a few considerations to make before starting to develop an effective content marketing strategy for Bilibili.
1. Balancing the quantity and quality of the content
Being consistent with the posting schedule is undoubtedly a requirement for any brand willing to stay in the market in the long term and build loyalty. However, it is important to understand the tastes of the target audience and create quality content accordingly.
In the saturated Chinese market, while posting with regularity is essential to prevent the brand from being forgotten, innovative advertisements are useful to encourage people to create buzz online and give the brand more visibility.
2. Engaging with the ACGN subculture
As mentioned above, Bilibili has a very specific target audience centered around the ACGN subculture. For brands wanting to create content on this platform, it is important to consider consumers’ expectations and incorporate them into the brand’s content. Utilizing ACGN visuals, featuring popular celebrities or virtual idols, and making references to well-known videogames might all be effective strategies for attracting young consumers’ attention on the brand.
3. Capitalize on PUCG
Bilibili’s revenues mainly derive from the PUCG, which provide up to 90% of the platform’s content. In 2018, the company even invested in an incentive plan to attract more creators and encourage the production of high quality content. Collaborating with content creators and live-streamers can turn out to be an effective strategy for promoting the brand. In this regard, the app Sparkle (花火, huahuo) serves as a useful tool for seeking and securing collaborations with other users. Launched in 2020, this app aims to enhance the cooperation among the parties involved in producing PUGC content on Bilibili. By registering on the app, the up主 (uploaders) can gain access to useful services that help manage their pages’ monetization systems and security policies, in addition to effective tools to organize cooperation requests.
Comparing Dior’s and the CMB’s strategies
In June 2020, the renowned French luxury brand Dior ventured onto Bilibili and has since uploaded 983 videos as of May 26th 2023. By posting content with regularity, it accumulated around 34 thousand followers. However, the majority of Dior’s videos has received a couple of hundred views, with only a few of their most popular posts counting hundred thousand views. Despite its persistence, Dior seems to struggle with engaging effectively with the targeted young audience on Bilibili.
In contrast, China Merchant Bank (CMB) demonstrated a deep understanding of the Bilibili community’s preferences by incorporating by leveraging the platform’s love for cuteness and the ACGN culture, creating engaging and informative content. This approach resonated well with the audience, as seen in their widely appreciated video explaining how to avoid commercial frauds through anime-inspired dances, which generated an impressive 6.6 million views. It exemplifies CMB’s ability to effectively connect with the platform’s audience and underscores the success of their content strategy.
Key insights on B-site’s success
- Bilibili, also known as B-site (B站), is a popular Chinese video streaming and live broadcasting platform founded in 2009. Initially a niche platform for ACGN (Anime, Comics, Games, and Novels) content, it quickly grew into a giant of the entertainment industry, recording 938.9 million visits in April 2023 alone.
- The company’s main revenue sources include mobile games, Valued-added Services (VAS), advertising, and e-commerce, all of which experienced remarkable YoY growth except for mobile games segment.
- The platform mainly targets the Gen Z and Late Millennials, with over 70% of users falling in the age group of 18 to 34 years.
- One of the reasons for Bilibili’s popularity is the sense of community it fosters, which generates consumers’ loyalty.
- Brands can leverage this app by balancing the quantity and quality of content, engaging with the different subcultures, and collaborating with content creators.
- Dior’s and the CMB’s experiences showcase the importance of adapting the content to the Chinese characteristics of the platform to engage with a broader audience.