Bilibili’s growing pains: Push for profitability come at a cost to some creators
Several popular content creators on the Chinese video site Bilibili recently announced they were taking a pause in updating their channels, citing a decrease in income as the main reason. The news soon spread on Chinese social media and developed into a wider discussion on the relationship between Bilibili and its video creators, with some claiming a creator exodus while others seeing it more as an individual phenomenon.
Similar to YouTube, Bilibili largely relies on user-generated videos. The loss-making platform is facing increasing pressure to turn a profit and has promised to reach break-even by 2024.
Why it matters: With profitability goals in sight, Bilibili has been adopting multiple strategies, including reducing incentives for some creators and introducing a short video format called Story Mode. These new strategies have hit creators with fewer followers and clout the most.
- In 2022, the Shanghai-based company spent RMB 9.1 billion ($1.3 billion) on revenue-sharing with creators, its latest filing showed, accounting for half of Bilibili’s cost of revenues. Bilibili had more than 3.8 million video creators by the end of 2022.
Details: Back in January 2018, to spur growth, Bilibili launched a creative incentive program to encourage creators to “make high-quality videos,” whereby the streaming site provides cash bonuses to creators based on views and engagements. Since last year, in an effort to reduce losses amid an economic downturn, Bilibili has reduced creator incentives, and prioritized commercial advertising and other integrated marketing.
- Those changes have hit some regular creators hard. Creators with more than 1 million followers mainly rely on business advertising to generate income, while those with fewer fans depend more on creative incentives.
- Some Bilibili creators have previously expressed dissatisfaction with reduced incentives publicly. In March 2022, a creator named Shudashi, who produces knowledge-related content, wrote that his earnings from the platform had been reduced by over 40% for a video. Before the adjustments, the creator said one of his videos with more than 100,000 views on Bilibili would earn him about RMB 1,600. Shudashi has 47,000 followers on the platform as of writing.
- A creator who once considered Bilibili a major source of income published a post on Monday and said that the creators who announced they were stopping updating content in the last few days were mostly working full-time with a team to support. The decline in commercial advertising partnerships and the high cost of creating long-form videos are the main reasons several creators chose to take a break, according to the creator.
Context: Bilibili launched a TikTok-like service called Story Mode in 2021 in an attempt to expand profits. Despite the effort, the YouTube-like video platform is facing increasing competition from short-video platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou, as well as other grassroots online platforms like Xiaohongshu.
Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, blockchain, and Web3. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]technode.com.
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