Prominent Chinese video-based influencer Li Ziqi reached a court settlement on December 27 with her multi-channel network (MCN) partner company, Weinian Brand Management Co., Ltd., although both parties refrained from providing further details.
The partnership between Li Ziqi and Weinian began a few years ago. In July 2017, the two sides jointly established Sichuan Ziqi Culture Communication Co., Ltd., with both parties holding 51% and 49% shares respectively, with Li Ziqi as the legal representative and executive director. Ziqi Culture is responsible for content creation, and Weinian conducts commercial operations. After Li rapidly became popular in the field of short videos, Weinian has been able to expand its investment map.
After Li Ziqi’s Weibo account had amassed over 10 million followers, Weinian launched a flagship store on Chinese e-commerce platform Tmall in August 2018 to sell traditional foods with regional characteristics but low popularity, such as Luosifen, a Chinese noodle soup, lotus root starch, flower cakes and more. Soon its sales exceeded 10 million yuan ($1,437,380) and reached 1.6 billion yuan in 2020, up 300% year-on-year.
On July 14, 2021, Li posted a video of her going to Zigong, Sichuan Province to refine salt on Weibo, and then did not update any original works. Last summer, Li wrote on her social account, “Reported to the police early in the morning,” and quipped about the power of capital assets. Therefore, it was speculated that Li had run into differences with Weinian. On September 13, her assistant posted on Weibo to confirm that there was a dispute with the company.
In October and November 2021, Ziqi Culture sued Weinian and its legal representative Liu Tongming twice. In January and March, 2022, Weinian sued Ziqi Culture twice. According to Qixinbao App, Liu Tongming withdrew from Ziqi Culture, the shareholding ratio of Weinian decreased from 51% to 1%, and Li Ziqi’s shareholding ratio increased from 49% to 99%. At present, Li is the actual controller of the company.
For web influencers, signing with MCN institutions is a double-edged sword. MCN companies often accumulate a lot of resources, and have more experience in operating and manufacturing popular videos. However, when influencers become stronger, differences in the original revenue sharing ratio, advertisment and marketing direction will emerge.
Since July last year, Li Ziqi’s followers on Weibo have dropped from 27.7 million to 26.3 million, while those on Bilibili have dropped from nearly 8 million to 7.65 million. However, her followers on YouTube have increased by more than one million.
In November of last year, Li Ziqi accepted an interview and explained why she stopped uploading new videos. She said that the lawsuit took up a lot of her energy and time, and that as long as she had a few hundred thousand yuan in deposits, she felt secure. In April this year, Li issued a statement, saying that there were a large number of counterfeit accounts and that she would take actions to safeguard her legitimate rights and interests.