Panda TV, the Chinese live-streaming platform backed by young tycoon Wang Sicong, the son of Dalian Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin, is to close down. It ran out of cash and will lay off its entire workforce.
There have been rumors for weeks of dire financial problems at the company and layoffs of about 500 staff. Company CEO Zhang Juyuan confirmed the news Friday, informing staff of the decision to close via an internal chat group. Panda’s users were notified in jokey fashion via social media platform Weibo.
“Panda Livestreaming main station’s wandering program has initiated its final stage. Engineer, please gradually sever links to the mother star. Please note, be sure to maintain normal service to the link,” it said, in what appeared to be a modified line of dialog from the hit Chinese sci-fi film “The Wandering Earth.” Panda’s servers are expected to be closed on March 18. The farewell message was accompanied by the image of a panda bear walking into the distance, uttering the word “Bye.”
Financial news sources in China report that the company had been overwhelmed by the cost of broadband servers and the salaries of celebrity streamers. Wages for some staff had reportedly gone unpaid.
Wang Sicong, is understood to be the largest shareholder, with a 40% stake, in the privately held company. According to local reports Wang will pay half a month of severance pay from his own pocket to all employees. Wang also controls e-sports company Invictus Gaming.
Panda was founded in 2015 and raised $149 million last year in a Series B funding round, giving it an apparent valuation of $750 million. Panda had indicated plans to follow live-streaming rivals Huya (which listed last year on the New York Stock Exchange and saw its shares tumble 7.7% on Thursday to $25.22) and Douyu into an IPO.
However, as it lost viewers, Panda also saw its top player defect to other platforms. Monthly active users had tumbled to just 17 million last month.