Can Bytedance’s Xigua Video Become China’s Next YouTube?

Plus: Bilibili's big birthday, Content Commerce Bytes, and is Pinduoduo actually good for brands?

Bytedance’s Xigua Video is emerging as a contender among China’s video streaming platforms. 

Launched in 2016 as Toutiao Video and rebranded a year later, Xigua has primarily served as a platform for user-created content that is longer than the typical Douyin (TikTok) video, while venturing into movie streaming and investing in its own productions as well. 

  • Xigua scored a major coup this month when it nabbed one of Bilibili’s most popular creators, the business-focused Necromancer Financial (巫师财经) with an exclusive deal reported to be worth RMB 100 million ($14 million). In a June 14th post announcing its departure from Bilibili, Necromancer Financial wrote that it was no longer sustainable to depend on revenue from fans. Following the move, Necromancer Financial quickly amassed nearly 1.5 million followers on Xigua.

  • The platform also recently announced two new plans aimed at upgrading user-generated content. The “Free 4K Plan” (免费4K计划) will allow all creators and viewers to upload and watch videos in 4K quality, while the “Live Words Plan” (活字计划) sets aside RMB 200 million ($28 million) in cash and network resources for creators. To date, the Live Words Plan has attracted more than 8,000 participants. 

  • Xigua has also moved to incorporate more professional content. In late January, it was one of the Bytedance platforms that offered free streaming of the blockbuster “Lost in Russia” (囧妈), which had its planned theatrical release canceled amid the coronavirus outbreak, and saw a dramatic increase in user numbers as a result. In the ensuing months, Xigua has signed content deals with BBC Studios for documentaries and children’s programming and with Moonbug for its flagship IP, “Little Baby Bum.” 

  • Xigua has also incorporated original variety show content and partners with major satellite networks such as Zhejiang Television’s variety channel, with Zhejiang TV sharing clips from top shows with its more than 3.1 million followers. 

  • User numbers have seen a dramatic increase this year as housebound Chinese looked for new sources of entertainment. In mid-2019, Xigua Video had 169 million monthly active users, but that figure had reportedly jumped to 270 million by March 2020, with the app downloaded 72 million times that month alone.

  • And while brands have already turned out en masse to work with hot platforms such as Douyin and Bilibili, Xigua Video could offer new opportunities for brands such as through collaboration with creators, who also receive shares of advertising revenue in a model similar to YouTube’s. 

- by Ginger Ooi, CCI Team

Want to learn more about Xigua Video? Download our Guide to Streaming here. Interested in our upcoming webinars and guide to livestreaming? Curious about sponsorship or advertising? Just interested in saying hello to our team or asking a question? Reach out today!

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Mentioned in today’s newsletter: Bilibili, Bulgari, Chanel, Huawei, Iflix, iQiyi, KFC, Nescafé, Pinduoduo, Xigua Video.


Bilibili Grows Up: Gen Z Video Platform Marks 11th Anniversary 

Despite its reputation for young users, Bilibili is part of China’s first generation of video platforms, recently marking its 11th anniversary. It has long been a hub for China’s ACG (anime, comic and games) subculture, boasting a highly engaged and loyal community of users. But it is also growing rapidly, tripling its audience over the past three years and drawing interest from brands across the consumer spectrum.

These shifts have raised questions of whether Bilibili will lose some of its unique features as its popularity grows.

  • CEO Chen Rui sought to allay those concerns in a speech during Bilibili’s livestreamed anniversary celebration on June 26. Chen noted that the average age of new users has remained fairly constant at 21. Gen Z users make up around 80% of Bilibiil’s 172 million monthly active users

  • Bilibili has approximately 1.8 million creators (known as Uploaders) working across expanded content categories that include lifestyle, beauty, finance, and science, but ACG content remains key. It was the fastest-growing category last year, with viewership more than doubling, and the platform continues to invest heavily in licensing animated IP from overseas along with producing original ACG content such as an adaptation of Liu Cixin’s Hugo Award-winning “Three Body Problem.”

  • The livestreamed anniversary event opened and closed with brand videos celebrating Bilibili’s creators. The opening video depicts the technological advancements of human civilization as a series of milestones towards the world of Bilibili — Confucius was the first Uploader, and the films of the Lumiere brothers were actually the first short videos — while looking to the future of 5G, virtual reality, and, of course, ACG.

  • The closing film, “Happy Encounter” (喜相逢), was directed by Zhang Dapeng and shares a humorous story of a Bilibili creator with cameos from the platform’s top Uploaders. It is the final installment in a brand film trilogy that included the viral “Rear Wave” (后浪) for China’s May 4 Youth Day, and a music video honoring the Class of 2020. 

  • The digitally native Gen Z is sometimes described superficially as a bunch of rebellious anime-lovers, but this report by Media 360 aims to go a bit deeper into their driving passions, from strong social needs deriving from being only children to their enthusiasm for China’s cultural heritage and idol fandom. 


For Global Brands, Pinduoduo is the Content Commerce Platform to Watch

Since its launch just five years ago, the US-listed social e-commerce platform Pinduoduo has become perhaps the most important new e-commerce player in the massive China market. The platform — led by big-talking founder and CEO Colin Huang — wants to become a content commerce powerhouse akin to a combination of “Costco and Disneyland.” While it’s difficult to say whether the platform will achieve something along these lines, based on recent financials and user data, it is clear that Pinduoduo is one to watch.

From a brand perspective, Pinduoduo is interesting for two key reasons. First, the platform’s bread and butter since its debut has been lower-tier cities, in which consumers have less purchasing power than their compatriots in Beijing or Shanghai but arguably more leisure time and strong demand for shoppable entertainment (given the price tag isn’t too high).

Read the full article on Content Commerce Insider


Brand Film Pick: Bulgari’s Youth Appeal 

Falling in love, living independently, and becoming one’s own person are some of the hallmarks of young adulthood, and these are the subjects of three short films from the 116-year-old Italian luxury brand Bulgari.

Each film in the “Age of Blossom” (花开那年) series depicts an issue at the forefront of a young woman’s mind as she reaches the milestone of turning 18: One is ready to fall in love at first sight, another struggles to learn how to live alone in a big city, while the third is a stereotype-breaking skater who prioritizes developing her strength, bravery, and ability to overcome challenges.

All of the women tell their own stories in highly relatable terms, in contrast to much luxury marketing that projects a rarified and sometimes pretentious air. It meshes well with the brand’s broader strategy of accessibility to younger consumers that extends to its diverse selection of brand ambassadors, such as Chinese hip-hop star Kris Wu and American actress and singer Zendaya. 

The films were released to coincide with graduation season, and each of the protagonists is seen wearing a delicate mother-of-pearl and diamond pendant necklace from the Diva’s Dream collection. Apart from a suggestion in one of the films that the product would be an appropriate gift to mark a young woman’s coming of age, Bulgari’s placement and branding is fairly unobtrusive. 

The series was directed by Maizi, who has previously worked with brands such as Chanel and Huawei and was listed as one of the top ten advertising directors on Socialbeta’s 2019 list. 


Content Commerce Bytes  

Nescafė partnered with Makoto Shinkai's studio to produce a branded short animation. Set in Hong Kong, the branded short was produced in the style of the Japanese animator/filmmaker behind hit features such as “Your Name.” It incorporates stunning illustrations of the cityscape and captures the essence and emotion of everyday life.

Could Tencent be on the path to becoming the Netflix of Asia? The tech giant just bought the struggling Malaysian video streamer Iflix. While Tencent has not released details yet, the deal is said to include the acquisition of  "TV shows, movies, and local original [programming] to stream or download.” Iflix is available in a dozen other countries across Asia including Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. The transaction will also enable Tencent Video’s WeTV — with operations in Thailand — to increase its audience across the broader Southeast Asian market’s population of 360 million. This comes after Tencent was reported to buy a majority stake in iQiyi from Baidu. 

KFC adopts a livestreaming aesthetic for its Dragon Boat Festival promo. Ahead of the Dragon Boat Festival, KFC released an ad to introduce its holiday-specific zongzi (sticky rice dumpling) snack. Playing on the current popularity of livestreaming, the scripted fictional short features two influencers sharing their commentary on the new dish. Beyond just looking trendy, the interactive elements of the livestream format create a sense of intimacy for the viewer while leaving a deeper impression of familiarity with the product. 

- by Benjamin Guggenheim, CCI Team


News in English

  • China’s retail sales are forecast to surpass $5 trillion in 2020, surpassing the U.S. for the first time ever and earlier than previously expected — a result of the coronavirus. eMarketer

  • India cancels TikTok and WeChat: Geopolitical tensions spilled over to the tech sector when the government banned dozens of Chinese apps on national security grounds. New York Times

  • How luxury brands are engaging in e-commerce livestreaming in China, despite the risks to reputation. Financial Times

  • And while celebrity livestreaming has become a major trend in Chinese e-commerce, big names don’t always live up to the hype when it comes to closing sales. WalktheChat

  • Beauty on demand: China’s Meituan Dianping has partnered with Sephora in China to get products from 68 stores across the country into consumers’ hands within as little as 30 minutes from ordering. Business of Fashion

  • L’Oréal is the latest beauty brand to announce changes to the branding and marketing of skin-whitening products favored by Asian customers. Sixth Tone

  • Black tie in the cloud: The China Fashion Gala, originally scheduled to be held in New York next month, will be held virtually with free general admission. WWD

  • Another postponement in the release date for Disney’s live-action adaptation of Mulan, this time to late August. Variety

  • The dark and gritty suspense drama “The Bad Kids” on iQiyi is captivating audiences and drawing rave reviews. Radii

  • Tencent’s take on Pokemon for the Nintendo Switch is a multiplayer version apparently inspired by its successful League of Legends. SCMP

We’ve Got China Covered