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China’s Gen Z Anime Fans Rejoice as Bilibili Goes Public in US

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Bilibili Inc, the largest Chinese anime streaming platform,” was listed on the NASDAQ on March 28. Chen Rui, Bilibili’s CEO and the chairman of its board, commemorated the occasion with an open letter to the platform’s fiercely loyal fanbase and potential investors: 

Back on June 26, 2009, a teenager called 9bishi (Xu Yi) pushed the button and officially released the prototype of Bilibili, mikufans.cn. Over the next eight years, more than 100 million users have visited Bilibili via website or app, and 2 million users have contributed 19.7 million videos… We share hobbies, joy, and emotion, creating limitless possibilities in this world called Biliili.

Eight of the site’s most popular power users — called UP主, or Uploaders — attended Bilibili’s NASDAQ bell ringing ceremony alongside Chen Rui:

In a description on NASDAQ’s official page, Bilibili Inc. describes its function in lofty terms: “We enrich the everyday life of young generations in China,” especially Generation Z. “In the first two months of 2018, we had 76.4 million average monthly active users,” the description continues. “According to QuestMobile, as of February 2018, approximately 81.7% of our user base were Generation Z, individuals born in China from 1990 to 2009.”

The video sharing website is famous for its danmu (弹幕), or bullet comments: user-generated subtitles that streak from right to left on top of videos, usually reactions to the content submitted live by fellow viewers in real time. These freewheeling commentaries create the feeling that viewers are watching, interacting, and sharing with other users.

All content on the Bilibili platform is categorized into sub-channels, such as anime, music, comics, games, and GUI CHU (鬼畜), a brainwashing-like style of video re-edited with music remixes imported from Japan. Enthusiastic creators in this genre re-edit classic Chinese TV series like Three Kingdoms and Amazing Detective Di Renjie.

The results are typically hilarious, but this video style might become sensitive in the future. New regulations recently published by State media outlet Xinhua News, and reported by business periodical The Paper on March 22, state that “classic films and TV shows cannot be reedited or recreated to disrespect the author’s original work.”

While Bilibili is proud of and benefits from its fandom community culture and its PUGC (Professional User Generated Content) Uploaders, the company also employs more than 200 employees (nearly 10% of its total ranks) to internally monitor and censor all content on the platform, 24/7.

Shares of Bilibili (NASDAQ: BILI) were priced at $11.50 at opening, and dipped to a low of $9.62 before rebounding to a closing price of $11.24 on the first day of trading. Its $483 million IPO was valued at more than $3 billion, which presumably shows the market’s confidence in the company’s commercial potential in fields such as mobile gaming, livestreaming, and anime.

Chen Rui said that the funds raised from the IPO will be used in three main areas: first, to expand website infrastructure and improve users experience; second, to invest and maintain the creator ecosystem; and third, to attract top-tier AI and content operations talent.

After the bell ringing ceremony, Bilibili Uploaders and anime fans danced in Times Square in celebration. Fans who weren’t able to make it to New York celebrated in the next best way: heavy bullet comments.

The day after Bilibili was listed, another Chinese video streaming site followed suit. iQiyi, an entertainment behemoth that is nearly 70% owned by search giant Baidu, listed on NASDAQ as IQ on March 29. Its stock was priced at $18.2 at opening, but declined 13.61% to a closing price of $15.55 on its first day of trading.

iQiyi is valued at $11 billion for the time being. Even though the platform “has about 421.3 million monthly active users and about 126 million active daily mobile users,” according to Chinese tech site TechWeb, it still has to deal with a net loss of US$574 million, and will look to expand as a tech-driven entertainment company in the future.

More on Bilibili and iQiyi:

A Guide to the Coming Chinese Tech IPOcalypse

iQIYI Touts Leading Position in China’s Online Entertainment Industry at Year-End Gala

Peppa Pig Has Spawned a Panoply of Chinese Memes

Cover image: Sina Weibo

Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van

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