China’s Live Streaming Boom Spawns Online Celebrity Agent Industry

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 – online celebrities 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 12 million RMB (about $1.8 million USD) this March. A month later, Papi Jiang’s first advertisement sold for 22 million RMB (about $3.3 million USD) in a public auction advanced by a major investor which 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 this week that it secured 100 million yuan ($15 million USD) 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 up, interact with audience members and set up 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 under 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 a 10 million RMB (about $1.5 million USD) round of Series A funding from IDG, putting it at a valuation of more than 100 million RMB (about $15.1 million USD) last August. The funding is earmarked for the recruitment, training and promotion of talent, according company CEO Wang Chunlei.

Yixia Technology, the parent company of video clip app Miaopai and Xiaokaxiu, has set up an 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.