Bilibili sparks controversy with first pay-per-view video

On Monday, Bilibili launched its very first pay-per-view video from an independent uploader, marking what could be a new game plan for China’s largest online video platform. 

The video in question is part of the “Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries of the World” video series uploaded by renowned user “Goushou Laodaye Duncan” (Chinese Urban Legend on YouTube), which is set to have a total of 10 episodes. Currently, each episode costs 30 RMB ($4.48) and can only be viewed after purchasing it on the Bilibili mobile app

Word has spread like wildfire since the release, garnering the attention of netizens nationwide who protest the idea of having to pay for content that should be free. Some netizens took to the Weibo Hot Search hashtag #Bstationonlinepaidvideofunction (which accumulated almost 5 million views) in order to express their dissatisfaction, with some even going as far as claiming the initiative to be downright deceitful

While the price may be viewed as arguably low, many users remain indignant and are therefore unwilling to make the purchase. This can be reflected in Duncan’s video, which, at present, has only amassed a little over 15,000 views – a lackluster performance in comparison to his typical colossal 400,000 to 600,000 views. 

The recent move made by the popular youth-oriented video streaming platform can most definitely be attributed to continued losses and heavy blows dealt by Beijing’s sweeping crackdown on the tech industry. In fact, the company’s total market shrunk from its peak of $58 billion last February to $10 billion this month. Diversifying its revenue sources may be its only way to ensure the business is smooth sailing.

There is a silver lining, though, as user growth has continued to grow exponentially over the past year. As of March 31, the number of “big members” reached 20.1 million, a year-on-year increase of 25%. In terms of content creation, the first quarter of 2022 witnessed a staggering 3.8 million uploaders, a year-on-year increase of 75%. Despite its recent revenue slump, the streaming platform is certainly excelling at widening its reach.

All things considered, premium videos may soon become an essential part of Bilibili’s monetisation strategy. Seeing as Bilibili has largely been a free platform for years on end, they will certainly need to raise the bar for the sake of their users if they wish to get this pay-per-view initiative off the ground. 


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