AcFun and Bilibili, known as A site （A站） and B site （B站） amongst Chinese anime fans for their initials, are the two flagships anime streaming sites in China with their own cult followings.
And just as many other startups in China, they each chose one of the two largest internet powerhouses – namely Alibaba and Tencent – as their backers.
AcFun sided with Alibaba whilst Tencent backed the B site.
On March 28, B site, or Bilibili, held its Nasdaq debut, though had a rocky start as its stock price dropped below offer price.
In stark contrast, Bilibili’s archrival AcFun, is struggling to land a life-saving investment.
In last December, rumor has it that Yunfeng Fund, a PE firm founded by Jack Ma, was mulling over a capital injection into AcFun. However, the deal eventually went sour as Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Fund kept pushing down AcFun’s valuation and wanted more control with more shares, according to local financial media Caijing citing a source familiar with the matter.
And local news aggregator Toutiao, one of the Chinese unicorns, emerged to be the eventual life-saver for endangered AcFun, according to the source who spoke with Caijing on anonymous condition.
Toutiao is interested in investing in the troubled anime-streaming platform and the two companies have been in talks for several times, the source said.
Toutiao, started out as a news aggregator, has successfully launched a slew of video-based app services, including Xigua Short Video and the sensational Tik Tok, in recent years. The potential injection in troubled AcFun, will mark the company’s first foray into the market of long videos, a relatively new territory for Toutiao.
That said, it might be Toutiao’s first attempt to tap into longer videos, but it’s not the first time that the Beijing-based unicorn thrusting itself into the space of ACGN, meaning animation, comic, game and novel.
In February this year, it took ownership of online anime community Half Dimension through a subsidiary. One month later, animation production startup Shengying Animation received investments from Toutiao.
ACGN, as an important part of China’s massive online entertainment market, is an area in which tech giants avidly seek to establish their presence. Tencent invested in Bilibili in November 2015 and injected RMB 40 million (approx. $ 6.4 million) earlier this year in comic company Mosspaca Studio.
Toutiao’s potential investment in AcFun would give the news giant an opportunity to leverage on the latter’s professional user-generated video content. Besides, ACGN websites boast of their highly engaged and sticky community, as well as the huge user base of Generation Z. That is also what Toutiao wouldn’t want to miss out.
The beleaguered AcFun has reportedly suspended operation in February 2018. The once famous platform has seen its daily active users drop to 1.6 million in November from 8 million in January, according to China’s biztech media 36Kr citing sources. In comparison, Bilibili claims its monthly active user reached 71.8 million in Q4 2017.
Founded in 2007, AcFun is one of the very first anime-streaming platforms in China. Bilibili was established by an ex-AcFun user XU Yi, during the summer of 2009 when AcFun was undergoing a major downtime.