China’s Live Streaming Boom Spawns Online Celebrity Agent Industry

  • China’s top internet celebrities are increasingly represented by small talent agencies.
  • Current celeb Papi Jiang sold her first advertisement for over US$3 million.
  • Internet-focused representation start-ups are garnering investment in the $10-15 million range.

Getting set up with a live streaming account and filming content for audiences might only take a few minutes, but to become a Chinese internet celebrity, or “wang hong,” is much more complex.

Hiring a professional talent agency is becoming a necessary, if not indispensable, part of the wang hong career path in China. For Chinese internet celebrities, fame is short lived – they enjoy a much shorter time in the limelight compared to film or TV stars.

Papi Jiang, whose humorous video clips went viral early this year, secured a joint investment of RMB 12 million in March. A month later, her first advertisement sold for RMB 22 million in a public auction advanced by a major investor that also backs Luogic Show, a popular talk show. The auction was widely considered by local media as a move to monetize the full commercial potential of Papi Jiang before public attention surrounding the comedian faded.

The earning potential of online celebrities has led to the formation of a full-fledged industry for online internet celebrity talent agencies.

Yujia Entertainment, a Chinese talent agency for online celebrities, announced last week that it secured RMB 100 million yuan in series B funding led by Legend Capital and followed by IDG, Prometheus Capital, and Fortune Capital. Wang Sicong, the son of Wang Jianlin, the richest man in China, also participated in Yujia’s latest round of funding.

Founded in 2013, Yujia is an early entrant to the online talent agency industry. The company provides training sessions for internet celebrities on how to dress, interact with audience members and create the background settings for live stream videos. In addition, Yujia also provides marketing, distribution, and production support. The company is also working on live streaming entertainment projects and e-commerce platforms for content.

According to Yujia, they currently represent fewer than 500 selected “talents,” chosen for appearance, performances, and live streaming time. The firm claims to have a monthly turnover of “tens of millions” of yuan.

Prior to this, the company received an RMB 10 million round of Series A funding from IDG, putting it at a valuation of more than RMB 100 million last August. The funding is earmarked for the recruitment, training, and promotion of talent, according to company CEO Wang Chunlei.

Yixia Technology, the parent company of video clip app Miaopai and Xiaokaxiu, has set up a separate department this year to run agent services. Similar companies include Jiuyu, Lijia, and Liulianjia, an online celebrity agent and incubation platform which just received 30 million yuan funding from Enlight Media.

–This post first appeared on TechNode.