Chinese streaming service and esports mainstay Bilibili received a $400 million dollar investment of equity from Sony Corporation of America on Thursday, with the PlayStation parent company now owning 4.98% of the company. Reports value Bilibili at around $8 billion dollars, with SonyCorp picking up around 17 million shares and furthering its own expansion into China. Bilibili is a name and service most likely foreign to American audiences but whose story is a mirror of its own major game streaming service, Twitch.
The site originally began as a Hatsune Miku fan site and forum in 2009 and named for a reference to the popular anime A Certain Scientific Railgun. This connection to anime would be the major break needed for Bilibili to gain popularity, as the site started hosting Chinese-subbed versions of shows such as Fate/Zero in 2012. Through the explosion of sports in the Chinese market, Bilibili would eventually go public on the US Stock Exchange in 2018 with a $4 billion dollar IPO. Since then Bilibili has strengthened its ties with anime, even working with Funimation in 2019, owned by Sony.
The agreement signed as part of the equity investment is specifically for the expansion of anime and mobile games into the Chinese market, but one would be remiss for not thinking about the potential for Sony to strengthen its grasp in the country. Sony only began selling the PlayStation 4 in China back in 2015 after a 14-year ban on foreign game consoles by the Chinese government. The investment move opens a variety of opportunities, as Bilibili advances out into the world of esports, providing main sponsorship for professional teams such as the Overwatch League’s Hangzhou Spark.
Further foreign investment in China is a net-positive for companies such as Bilibili, as American companies look to get in bed in what is still a relatively untapped market. About the investment, a statement on Thursday from Bilibili said “Sony’s investment further aligns us with the world’s leader in entertainment and technology, which will enhance our capability to bring high-quality content and services to our growing community.”