China’s YouTube wants to be its Netflix—and more
The mission statement of Bilibili, often dubbed “China’s YouTube”, stands out for its modesty. Instead of promising to change the world, the firm aspires merely to “enrich the everyday life of young generations in China”. If user figures are a guide, the Chinese young feel enriched. In the last quarter of 2020 the number of people who used the service at least once a month shot up by half from a year earlier, to 202m. Nearly nine in ten were under the age of 35. Videos on the platform, which range from sports highlights to self-help lectures and everything in between, attract an average of 1.2bn daily views.
Launched in 2009 as a website for fans of Japanese anime, Bilibili has evolved into a diversified entertainment group. In recent months even Western musicians (such as Jessie J and Charlie Puth) and Hollywood stars (including Dwayne Johnson) have rushed to set up Bilibili accounts. Investors, too, have taken notice. Between March 2018, when the firm listed in New York, and February this year its market capitalisation rose more than tenfold, to $41bn. On March 23rd it raised $2.6bn in a secondary listing in Hong Kong.
Unlike YouTube, Bilibili refuses to clutter usergenerated videos with adverts. That way, the thinking goes, it can attract new users put off by such interruptions, and convince them to spend more time on the platform. The central aim, as described by executives, is to “convert” this “sticky community” into “paying users”.