Bilibili has become the largest and most well-known ACG content-based video sharing website in China. In the field of video sharing, Bilibili combines overlaid commentary culture and video to create a new concept. And bilibili uses the platform as the core to extend the related industry chain and become a comprehensive video industry company. Its emergence has changed the chaotic phenomenon of Chinese ACG market and brought revolutionary change into Chinese online media industry.
The article will first analyze the development history of Bilibili and the influence of the company, then discuss Bilibili’s business model. In the third part , the article will make a critical analysis of the impact of Bilibili on the Internet ecology and market regulations. Finally, the revolutionary Internet transformation brought by Bilibili will be discussed.
What is bilibili?
Bilibili is an ACG(Animation, Comic and Games) video sharing platform in China. Its predecessor was MikuFans, a danmaku sharing website founded by Xuyi after he graduated in 2009. Xuyi, an anime lover, took advantage of the fact that Mikufans are more stable than other platforms to develop his platform rapidly, and officially renamed it Bilibili in 2010(Bilibili, 2020). At the time of its NASDAQ IPO in March 2018, Bilibili disclosed in its report that the platform had attracted more than 71.8 million monthly active users(NetEase, 2018). In the decade since 2010, Bilibili has been widely recognized by ACG fans in the Chinese mainland. Due to its unique danmu culture and highly optimized video sharing method, more and more people are willing to upload their own videos to Bilibili to gain people’s recognition. Bilibili video content has also gradually expanded from imported Japanese animation to comprehensive video. You can see weekly Updates of Japanese anime at Bilibili, learn discrete mathematics at Bilibili, learn how to take care of your family pets in the Life section, or improve your cooking skills. Now Bilibili is no longer a simple social media video sharing software, but has expanded its field into various industries, including animation, games, dance, technology, entertainment and fashion. Bilibili can be found in all walks of life in mainland China, such as the games people play on their mobile phones, or the league of Legends professional team people support. Bilibili has even invested in launching its own man-made earth-orbiting satellite(cnTechPost, 2020).
Bilibili new year party from YouTube simao.(simao, 2020)
Inspired by the shoot’em up game genre (STG), danmaku literally means bullet screen: the displaying of comments as curtain fire bombarding the screen, creating a quasi-real-time viewing experience(Chen, 2020).
With danmaku, you feel hanging out with millions of people at the same time…I enjoy singing so I started to post covers of songs there…I wanted the attention (which was impossible to get in her then real/offline high school life(Chen, 2018).
Danmaku(or danmu or bullet comments) culture is the most representative feature of bilibili. Like people commenting on movies they’ve seen, bilibili danmaku plays a similar role. The uniqueness of danmu lies in its rolling mode and editability, which gives the audience a sense of participation and creates a community atmosphere, which promotes the formation of local fan culture. After Bilibili’s revolutionary use of bullet screens, China’s major video-sharing social media sites began to adopt bullet screens and even expanded into movies. People put their ideas into danmaku , which form an important part of fandom and secondary creation.
In short, Bilibili’s business model combines the playbook from companies such as YouTube, IQIYI Inc, HUYA Inc, and NetEase(Nga, 2020).
How Bilibili can gain an advantage in the fierce market competition in mainland China? It depends on its business model. Bilibili’s business target is the consumers, specifically the tens of millions of ACG Internet users in China. The typical ACG user will set up an account on Bilibili to watch what they want to see, and after their request is satisfied, they will continue to watch other types of videos, which is no different from that of normal netizens, so Bilibili focuses on user stickiness. Bilibili encourages various users to upload their videos as creators and build their own communities, which attracts a large number of users. At the same time, the series of games, life, drama, TV drama and film guarantee the diversification of content. The launch of the online mall has become one of the main sources of bilibili’s income. This creates a virtuous circle of commercialization. After users get a good use experience on the platform, more users will be attracted, which improves the popularity of the platform. In this way, more people start to compete internally to produce better videos, and the user experience will be better. Over and over again, the user base of the platform rises in a straight line. The data shows that bilibili’s monthly active users increased from 77.7 million in the first quarter of 2018 to 172 million in the first quarter of 2020. The average daily usage time of users is also increasing(Nga, 2020). And Bilibili’s main profit method is through the promotion of content to a large number of users, such as mobile games.
But bilibili continues to lose money on the company’s bottom line. Bilibili has so far remained a loss-making enterprise and will continue to lose money for the foreseeable future. This is mainly because Bilibili has been spending money on sales and marketing. Of course, in the past few years, the company’s financial indicators have continued to improve. What makes investors feel confident is that Bilibili’s gross profit has turned from negative to positive. Bilibili has seen a strong growth of its revenue over the past year, from 0.8 to 1.4 billion RMB(GRAZIANI, 2019). The strengthening of Bilibili’s profitability reflects the platform’s good investment prospects.
Internet ecology and regulations
As China’s largest danmaku video sharing platform, Bilibili does have many competitors. Huya and Douyu are the biggest competitors of Bilibili in the field of live broadcasting. However, the live broadcast plate of Bilibili is only a functional plate of the platform, which is fundamentally different from Huya and Douyu.(Owler, 2020). Because the businesses of huya and Douyu platforms are basically focused on live streaming. In fact, bilibili’s biggest competitor is still iQIYI, Tencent video and other media platforms in mainland China. However, these two platforms are not involved in many fields in the ACG field, which leads to the situation that there is no fierce market confrontation in the whole market.
However, Bilibili also has large number of partners. Since it is a video sharing platform, it has no conflict of interest with many Internet enterprises, which provides conditions for it to cooperate with many enterprises. Bilibili, for example, has partnered with famed e-commerce company Alibaba to strengthen its e-commerce and advertising businesses. In late 2018, Alibaba allowed Bilibili creators to register accounts on Taobao and promote their products, which could also be seen as alibaba’s expansion into ACG. The two companies commercialize ACG industrialization through intercommunication. Alibaba’s assistance has significantly boosted Bilibili’s e-commerce and advertising revenues(Sun, 2020).
For video-sharing platforms on the mainland, China’s state Administration of Culture has a veto. That is, it can use administrative power to regulate local media and online platforms. One day in July 2017, bilibili users noticed that a lot of content on the platform had disappeared, and there was no official explanation. However, it’s not hard to guess why the videos were taken off the shelves at a time when the Chinese government was revamping the meida content.
The most significant feature of Bilibili is that the suppliers and bilibili users are mostly the same kind of people. Many bilibili users will try to make their own videos to show their participation(FUNG BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE, 2020) , which will bring them spiritual pleasure, this is also one of the platform cultures of Bilibili. As for the other suppliers, they are the producers of bilibili imported anime, as well as some music creators and practitioners in some surrounding industries.
Bilibili users are a very special group. In fact, bilibili account registrars are only tourists, who are only given a little access before answering a series of questions about ACG culture. For example, you’re only allowed to make your own video or post a danmaku if you’ve answered 20 questions in a limited amount of time and got 80% or more right. Therefore, only tourists who have registered their accounts and successfully answered a certain number of questions can be regarded as real users.
Below is a diagram of Bilibili’s internet ecology:
Bilibili created a transformative innovation on the Internet?
Bilibili’s innovative transformation is the contribution to the ACG cultural industry, the new profit model of video-sharing platform and the change in the way people communicate through online comments.
For ACG fans on the Chinese mainland, Bilibili’s appearance has made it possible for them to find their own home, instead of struggling to find the animation they want from various video-sharing platforms. Bilibili strives to act as a porter, providing the perfect platform for ACG enthusiasts in mainland China. At the same time, Bilibili set up electronic shopping mall, greatly promoting the development of animation, gaming derivatives industry. Especially after bilibili partnered with Alibaba, products related to ACG culture can be sold directly on Taobao.
It is well known that most video sharing platforms make money mainly through advertisement placement and membership system. For example, for $9.99 a week, you can avoid the annoying 30-second advertisements at the beginning of the video. Many people sign up for membership for convenience. But the biggest difference with Bilibili is that all the videos on the platform have no advertisements. It makes money through membership and Animation peripheral industry. The most common advertisements you see in Bilibili are those voluntarily inserted by video producers for profits.
Bilibili tour from YouTube (Group, 2020)
These help to retain user’s interest and give rise to a feedback loop that promotes the platform’s further growth(FUNG BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE, 2020).
Bilibili brought the danmaku culture to the Chinese market and completely changed people’s opinions on videos. People found that they could also put their opinions on bullet comments while watching videos and share their opinions with other viewers. It completely changed the existence form of subculture, and the interaction between people through bullet comments and creators and other audiences is a new culture. The person sending the bullet comments is already expecting other people’s interaction when sending it(Chen, 2020). The audience’s initiative is unprecedented in the history of media development.
In short, Bilibili’s business model has proven successful, as evidenced by the large number of video platforms using bullet comments. It has also successfully demonstrated to the society that the current scale of ACG culture industry is huge. At the same time, the diversity of the platform created by Bilibili also sets an example for others in the industry. The diversification of the content of the bilibili is gradually becoming the main reason for attracting new users. Today’s bilibili is no longer the simple animation sharing website before. It is a comprehensive social platform that integrates cultural output, product output, and knowledge output.
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