Bilibili Feature Image 'China's New Youtube'

In case you missed it, 2020 has marked the arrival of video streaming platform Bilibili as a major digital player in China’s tech scene. According to their Q2 statement, Bilibili’s Monthly Active Users (MAU) hit 172 million (+55% YOY). This includes a mobile-active userbase of 153 million (+59% YOY).

Bilibili’s growth this year is, perhaps, a little unsurprising given many of the recent consumer trends stemming from COVID. However, it’s important to recognise that China’s video and entertainment industry has been on the cutting edge of innovation for some time now. The rapid uptake of Douyin/Tik Tok is testament to this. Furthermore, China is also blazing the trail in livestreaming technology globally. Since 2017, it’s been estimated that at least 80% of China’s internet-active population actively view livestream videos.

This week, we’ll be exploring the ins and outs of Bilibili; its users, it’s major categories, as well as best-use examples for brands and retailers.

YouTube? Really?

We’re seeing a rising number of netizens describing Bilibili as the Chinese YouTube. As with most East-West platform comparisons, this is a slight misrepresentation.

For one, Youtube has a degree of monopolostic control of video entertainment in the west. By contrast, China’s video and livestreaming industry is incredibly fragmented. Other popular platforms include Huajiao, Yizhibo, Inke, YY, Momo, Youku and Kuaishou.

Another major tell-tale difference is apparent when you look at Bilibili’s user demographics.

Bilibili Age demographics

As you can see, Bilibili’s users are all quite young. For the most part, it is a community of Gen-Z and millennials, many of whom are students. Importantly for many western brands, Bilibili also boasts a relatively even split of men (55.4%) and women (44.6%).

With all this in mind, it’s perhaps not shocking to learn that the platform was spawned as a haven for anime videos. More recently however, the platform has becoming increasingly diversified and livestreaming is more prominent than ever. We’ll explore this further in a short moment.

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Bilibili: Points of Difference

The ‘YouTube’ comparison is also, perhaps, a little bit unsettling to many Chinaphiles. For years, Alibaba’s Youku has held this title. In recent times however, it’s been well documented that Youku has transitioned into an offering more similar to Hulu. Which begs the question, what roles are China’s major video platforms serving in 2020?

To provide a little bit of context, we asked our Guangzhou team to describe their holistic views of China’s major video platforms:

“Tencent is like Apple TV or Amazon Prime. They’ve got big TV series and blockbuster movies."
Linda Zuo
Linda Zou
Douyin Logo
“Douyin is basically a mindless entertainment app for 15 second viral videos”
Aubrey square
Aubrey Huang
Kuaishou logo
“Kuaishou is also a mobile entertainment app. However, it supports longer videos than Douyin as well as livestreaming.”
Luna Zhang
Luna Zhang
Youku logo
“Youku is mostly for TV series. There are a lot of office shows and period dramas.”
Linda Zuo
Linda Zou
Bilibili logo
“Bilibili is like a combination of YouTube, Twitch, Netflix and LinkedIn Learning.”
Janet Zhang
Janet Zhang
Iqiyi logo
“Iqiyi is actually quite similar to Bilibili. It’s just slightly more mass-market, whereas Bilibili is almost entirely used by young people.”
Vivian Wu
Vivian Wu

Bilibili: 'A Safe Space for Geeks'

When talking about Bilibili’s unique value proposition for users, the most recurring theme that comes up is ‘community’. Bilibili users are famously accepting and supportive of each other. Users draw comfort that their peers on the platform are largely students just like them. Whether you’re into anime, video games, building robots or trying to upskill in Microsoft Excel: you have countless friends on Bilibili ready to offer support and advice in real-time. This adds an extra, multidimensional social component to the user experience, which largely takes place via ‘Danmu’.

[Source: SCMP, 2019]

Danmu (or Bullet Comments) is Bilibili’s iconic feature; whereby viewer comments pan across the video itself (pegged to key timestamps). Interestingly, a rising proportion of Danmu is relying on secret codes, abbreviations and terms coined by the communities themselves. For example, here are a few abbreviations which have been trending recently:

  • MC             =       Minecraft
  • Nico           =       NICONICO
  • OP             =       Opening song
  • ED              =       Ending song
  • CP              =       Couple
  • 233333333 =       laugh
  • up主           =       Contributor
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Bilibili's Noteworthy Categories


As mentioned before, Bilibili’s anime community is one of the largest and most active. It is a natural home for China’s perpetually booming ‘cutesy’ scene.

Games & eSports

The rise of China’s video-game livestreaming activity in recent years has been well documented recently. Technode reported recently that China will be the home of over 450 million eSports players by 2021. Catalysed by the advent of COVID19 bolstering the sector by 30%, Bilibili provides a natural home for many of China’s gamers to post video recordings or even livestream. In fact, Bilibili is now competing with players like Tencent Games to launch their own games, as well as bring popular overseas video games to China.


Beyond boasting a plethora of free documentaries, Bilibili also provides a library of educational videos akin to the quality of LinkedIn Learning. In fact, Bilibili sees a spike in users every time there’s a major school/university exam coming up. Users are not only using it for the videos, but also for the communities. Many students like to engage with each other through video comments.

Western Media Content

Given China’s blockage for YouTube and Google-affiliated businesses, many YouTube artists and vloggers are now jumping aboard the Bilibili train to nurture their (sometimes unexpectedly massive) Chinese audiences. In fact, Bilibili is fast becoming the defector platform for accessing lots of western media content, including TED Talks.

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How to Use Bilibili

✅ KOL Livestreams and Endorsements

Product placement via KOL and KOC videos and livestreams is perhaps, one of the most popular way brands find customers over Bilibili. Unfortunately, though, Bilibili doesn’t support any off-platform linkages to eCommerce platforms. This has clear, stifling implications for the customer journey. As such, it’s important to take care to select KOLs with active and engaged follower bases, who are likely to follow KOL prompts to navigate independently to your eCommerce outlets.

For instance, in the video linked above, 阡陌丸子(Rice Balls) gives a video demonstration of her skincare routine, with an itemized list of each product she uses in the video description.

In this video, MOMO默二uses a live Q&A with her followers to discuss and trial some of the products her Weibo followers have complained about.

✅ Mini-Programs & eCommerce

In April 2019, Bilibili launched a new mini-program feature on its mobile platform; making eCommerce functionality possible for the first time. Daxue provide a pretty comprehensive overview on the various ways to leverage these.

✅ Brand Collaborations and Partnerships

Brand collaborations with Bilibili are another very popular way to facilitate engagement. Last year, Bilibili supported a Louis Vuitton x League of Legends (LOL) collaboration. LOL Players could dress popular character Qiyana head to toe in Louis Vuitton. Bilibili also launched a string of LV and LOL augmented reality filters for their videos.
(Images Right: Riot Games)

League of Legends Louis Vuitton outfit
Luis Vuitton x League of Legends
Clarins x Bilibili
Chando x Bilibili
Feiyue x Bilibili

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