4 MCNs You Need to Know in China

Livestreamer Li Jiaqi, known as China’s “lipstick king,” once sold 230 Bottega Veneta bags in a minute. With the items selling at $1,931 (12,300 RMB), the achievement was nothing less than shocking. Now, of course, he’s a household name who is drafted in to sell any number or range of products — from any sector.

But behind the scenes of all this was Mei One, the MCN company responsible for Li’s dramatic influence. The studio and talent agency helped Li gain 44.76 million followers by consistently producing attractive short video scripts for Douyin, managed by a production team in charge of setting, content, and products. Li owes his reputation and extraordinary sales performance at least in part to them.

So what exactly are MCNs? The term MCN, or multi-channel network, was first coined by YouTube and is now widely used in the mainland. They manage the activities of KOLs not just on short video platforms such as Douyin, but also across a wide range of avenues that include social media and e-commerce. They are particularly good at social media and navigating various online platforms’ constantly evolving features and algorithms.

Acting like agents, these companies may sign contracts with multiple KOLs. But they primarily work with two kinds: established influencers with large followings, and ordinary netizens with potential.

According to the world’s leading consulting agency, iiMediaResearch, there were more than 30,000 MCN institutions in China in 2021, a number expected soon to exceed 40,000. Last year, 74.5 percent of buyers purchased commodities through a short video or live broadcast platform. And the analysis firm EMarketer forecasts that the total global spending on influencers by brands will reach $16 billion (106 billion RMB) in 2022.

So should global luxury groups collaborate with MCNs? They are now so popular that it can be difficult to work with KOLs without them. The most significant advantage of the agent is that it always knows what content can draw followers’ attention and make them purchase. Each company has influencers in different fields, such as home, fashion, beauty, and clothing. When a marketer provides specific requirements to MCNs, they can match them with suitable KOLs. This makes these entities direct conduits to consumers (especially millennials and Gen Z), a serious business indeed.

Here, Jing Daily analyzes four of the more well-known MCNs.

Dayu Media

With KOLs like The Little Monk Yi Chan (left) and 仙姆SamChak (right), Dayu Media covers both ACG and beauty. Photo: Weibo

Dayu Media is one of China’s largest MCN organizations and supplies content to more than 600 million users. Currently, Dayu is certified by Tencent as one of the top developers, and is continuously ranked in the top three on lists of new media platforms like Weibo, Tencent, and Douyin. Besides this, the firm is one of Weibo’s four strategic partners in video production.

Location: Suzhou, Jiangsu Province

Founded in: 2011

Featured Talents: The Little Monk Yi Chan (一禅小和尚) (47 million Douyin followers) and 仙姆SamChak (13.47 million Douyin followers)

Platforms: Douyin, Kuaishou, and Weibo

Services offered: Livestreaming, marketing campaigns, media promotion

Competitive advantages: Dayu Media has various IPs which give partners a range of options, including virtual influencers like The Little Monk Yi Chan, who has more than 47 million fans on Douyin.

The bottom line: Covering ACG (anime, comics, games) culture, makeup, and games gives them a very broad scope, and their original comics and cartoons are extremely popular with the young. A safe bet to secure appealing content and quick sales.

Mei One

Li Jiaqi, Mei One’s biggest KOL, has helped C-beauty brand Florasis generate more sales. Photo: Li Jiaqi’s Weibo

In 2015, Mei One became the first MCN to propose incubating BAs (beauty advisors) into livestream retail talents. It has also built an empire of e-commerce systems on Taobao and has hundreds of influencers on platforms such as Weibo and Douyin. The company has successfully raised numerous IPs such as “Li Jiaqi livestream” and “Naiva Family.”

Based in: Shanghai

Founded in: 2014

Featured Talents: Li Jiaqi (44.65 million Douyin followers, 30.37 million Weibo followers)

Platforms: Weibo, Douyin, and Kuaishou

Services offered: Livestreaming, marketing campaigns, media promotion

Competitive advantages: Their most significant asset is Li Jiaqi, who has a remarkable influence on beauty and fashion. Take the success of domestic beauty brand Florasis, for example. According to media statistics, the Li effect helped Florasis rake in $460 million (3 billion RMB), an increase of 165.4 percent from last year’s $170 million (1.13 billion RMB).

The Bottom line: Mei One is among the largest of the Chinese livestreaming operators. Although the firm has other KOLs, it is Li Jiaqi — the first bona fide smash hit in the local industry — who generates its core resources.


Papi酱 is a Chinese comedian known for her vlogs, where she pokes fun at everyday topics such as dating and family relationships. Photo: Papi酱’s Weibo

Papitube is a short video MCN platform established by the well-known short video bloggers Papi Jiang (or Papi酱) and Yang Ming, founder of Papitube’s parent company Mountaintop. The business’ specialty is scouting and incubating video bloggers for brand promotion. It has signed contracts with more than 100 creators, including @Bigger研究所 and @网不红萌叔Joey, across topics such as food, beauty, pets, fashion, and lifestyle. The number of fans on the network exceeds 500 million.

Based in: Beijing

Founded in: 2016

Featured Talents: Papi酱 (31.906 million Weibo followers, 32.08 million Douyin followers) and网不红萌叔Joey (3.2 million Weibo followers, 17.324 million Douyin followers)

Platforms: Weibo, Douyin, Bilibili, Zhihu, and Xiaohongshu

Services offered: Marketing campaigns, media promotion

Competitive advantages: Mountaintop, the parent company of Papitube, has various resources in film and television meaning the platform has the unique ability to turn KOLs into real stars. Its most popular KOL, Papi酱, participated in The Exciting Offer reality show in 2019 and played the heroine in 2021’s movie Tomorrow Will Be Fine.

The bottom line: The firm provides a highly-qualified content spectrum from a matrix of often humorous KOLs. It concentrates on supporting clients to broaden their business, increase brand awareness with compelling content, and boost sales in China.

Hive Media

Hive Media has signed over 1000 KOLs, including 陶白白Sensei (left) and 零食少女 (right). Photo: Weibo

Winners of the “Media Agency of the Year” award for five consecutive years, Hive Media has multiple critical IPs in many areas. Its strength lies in having exclusively signed up around 1000+ high-quality KOLs, giving its content great variety and authenticity.

Based in: Shenzhen

Founded in: 2014

Featured Talents: 陶白白Sensei (17.49 million Weibo followers, 23.52 million Douyin followers) and 零食少女 (10.23 million Weibo followers)

Platforms: Weibo, WeChat, Douyin, and Bilibili

Services offered: Video production, livestreaming, marketing campaigns, media promotion

Competitive advantages: Hive exerts a powerful influence on Weibo and offers brands a way to save valuable time with its broad talent reach. It can enact collaborations by quickly sourcing KOLs to woo consumers across an impressive variety of industries. In March, it had 25 bloggers on Weibo’s hot search list and an aggregate of 1.514 billion followers on this platform.

The bottom line: With its sophisticated use of new media and the ability to promote self-media talent, the company has become a critical player in the market. (Source: jingdaily.com)

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