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China’s Bilibili Pitches Itself as International Production Partner

Bilibili, a specialty Chinese video platform best known for animation and games content, is setting out a stall as a viable and attractive partner for international co-productions.

A presentation of so-called bullet comments (real-time audience feedback that overlays on-screen content) drew gasps from an audience of executives at the World Congress of Science & Factual Producers in Brisbane, Australia, on Monday. It was unclear whether the intakes of breath were in horror or awe at this glimpse of the future and such huge levels of interaction with video content.

Bilibili, which was founded in 2009 and earlier this year earned itself a share listing on the NASDAQ, followed up Monday’s surprising demo with a more select lunchtime presentation Tuesday. Its executives took turns to tout the company’s jaw-dropping numbers and to tease glimpses of its business deals with top-tier international TV groups, including U.K. and Japanese public broadcasters BBC and NHK, respectively, and a six-year corporate relationship with Discovery.

The company claims 92 million monthly active users and 450 million page views per day. Users are typically Generation Z, or China’s post-millennials, who tune in for a mix of live streaming, gaming, and short-form content.

Bilibili considers content under one of two headings: professionally user-generated video (brands and creators who may be remunerated through donations and sponsorship) and user-generated video content.

But the mix is changing. The company says it has been a buyer of factual content for the past two years. And it is now increasingly looking to produce and co-produce its own shows. It has worked with National Geographic on “China’s Hidden Kingdoms” and with NHK on the “WHK” anime show. With the BBC it has adapted car-themed men’s lifestyle show “Top Gear” as both a “Borrowed Gear” show and as a fan event which attracted a claimed 400,000 visitors over three days before the premiere of “Top Gear” season 25.

China’s authorities have this year fined Bilibili and other streaming companies for content infringements. But the company appears to be finding favor with investors. It is one of the few Chinese tech stocks to have risen this year, from $11.50 at flotation to $14.97 per ADR at the market close on Monday. At that price it is valued at $4.19 billion.

Regulators are seeking greater control over live streaming, user comments and user-generated content. Increasingly, that means more self-censorship by the platforms themselves. Executives in Brisbane declined to reveal how many staff are involved in compliance, but they confirmed that the company has teams in the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Shanghai involved in filtering comments and content.

The company believes that it can minimize such occurrences not jut through real-name registration, but also by requiring users to take a web citizenship test before they can start to feed back into the site. It also operates a graded warning system before users see their accounts suspended.

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