Chinese video entertainment platform Bilibili is to buy a nearly 10% share in production company and specialist streaming platform Huanxi Media. It will pay $66 million (HK$513 million) for the stake.
The two companies will also sign a five-year co-operation deal that will give Bilibili and Huanxi’s own streaming platform exclusive rights to film and TV content flowing from Huanxi’s production stable.
Among Huanxi’s biggest backers are director Ning Hao (“Crazy Alien,” “No Man’s Land”) and actor-producer Xu Zheng (“Lost In Thailand,” “Dying to Survive”), and Bilibili will also get priority investment position in their works.
Huanxi says that it expects “Run For Young,” a wholly-owned internet drama series will be among the first TV titles handled under the deal. Similarly, it expects Peter Chan Ho-sun’s sports drama “Leap,” to be the first movie coming under the deal. Focusing on China’s triumphant women’s volleyball team, the movie is scheduled to debut in Cinemas in October for the coming National Day holiday and then to simultaneously appear on Huanxi and the Bilibili platforms after the end of theatrical release.
Huanxi is to issue new shares equivalent to 9.9% of its enlarged capital, and NASDAQ-listed Bilibili will pay HK$1.41 per share for the 9.9% stake, close to the Friday closing price of the shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Bilibili gets to nominate a non-executive director to Huanxi’s board. Huanxi says that roughly four fifths of the new funds will be spent on content, with $13 million going towards general working capital.
Bilibili is often referred to as China’s YouTube, but is perhaps spiritually closer to a cross between Reddit and Twitch. However having emerged from the anime-comics and games universe, it has begun streaming longer-form content and hatched co-production pacts with major companies including the BBC and Discovery.
As it has grown up, and begun to challenge China’s mainstream streaming platforms, Bilibili has also attracted the interest of even larger companies. In early 2019, Alibaba acquired an 8% stake, while in April this year Sony said it would be investing $400 million in the company.
Huanxi riled the Chinese film industry at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis when it adeptly switched “Lost in Russia” from a theatrical release to a straight to streaming approach, in partnership with Bytedance, the company that owns Douyin and its international equivalent TikTok. The two companies also signed a wider co-operation deal, but a Huanxi spokesman told Variety that all the terms of its deal with Bytedance have been met and that there is no conflict between the Huanxi-Bytedance and the Huanxi-Bilibili agreements.