HUYA Inc. 2024 Q1 Results: Strategic Transformation Makes Good Progress in Game-Related Services, Returning an Aggregate Value of Nearly $200 Million to Shareholders

The game live streaming industry in China has been evolving over the past year, with macro challenges and a fast-changing competitive landscape. Against such a backdrop, Huya Inc., a major player in the industry, has swiftly made strategic transformation to diversify business by exploring further into game-related services since last August. Huya’s latest financial results of 2024 Q1, which is released on May 13, has demonstrated encouraging progress, particularly in strengthened profitability, commercialization of game-related services, as well as a series of upgrades including content, platform ecology, and product and technology.

For the first quarter of 2024, Huya has recorded total net revenues of 1504.0 million yuan ($208.3 million), with net income increasing 79.3% year-on-year to 71.0 million yuan. Driven by upgrades to Huya Live application and innovative cross-platform e-sports events and operational activities, mobile MAU of Huya Live reached 82.6 million in 2024Q1, up from 82.1 million the same period of 2023.

Inspiringly, the first quarter has seen rapid revenue growth in game distribution and advertising services, as well as in-game item sales, which drives game-related services, advertising and other revenues for the first quarter to 243.6 million yuan, a year-on-year increase of 137.6% and a quarter-on -quarter increase of 30.7%. Huang Junhong, Co-CEO and Senior Vice President of Huya, commented at the earnings conference call that “this growth reflects a strong and engaged base of high-value gamer users on our platform and validates our new direction’s potential.” In addition, as the game-related services expands, more Huya users are willing to pay for them, such as purchasing in-game virtual items on the platform, which contributed to a slight sequential increase of paying users on Huya Live to 4.4 million.

Specifically, regarding game distributions, Huya is actively expanding its coverage to include more games, both upcoming and existing titles. Gamer users on Huya platform tend to have high commercial value potential, and their average spending level via Huya’s distribution channel has performed well, particularly in the MMO and SLG categories. The company is also refining operations to capitalize on users’ value as it develops game distribution services. For in-game item sales, Huya provides users with a wide range of popular game props for an increasing number of games. In addition, more broadcaster-customized in-game virtual items are developed and offered to broadcasters and their fans to help strengthen connections. With respect to game advertising services, Huya is in collaboration with more game companies and coming up with more innovative broadcaster promotion activities and campaigns. Currently, Huya is actively preparing for the upcoming launch of the eagerly-awaited DNF mobile game, in an aim to capture related opportunities in game distribution and promotion. Apart from offering rich live streaming content and more comprehensive services related to the DNF mobile game, Huya intends to leverage this game to expand its game-related service revenues.

The productive progress from Huya’s strategic upgrades not only reflect in revenues, but also in its enhanced profitability. According to Wu Xin, Huya’s Co-CEO and Vice President of Finance, she explained at the earnings conference call that as the game-related services enjoy a higher gross margin, their increased proportion in total net revenues, which is 16% in 2024 Q1 in comparison with 5% from the same period of 2023, contributed to the overall improvement in gross margin. Along with Huya’s cost optimization efforts, the gross margin stood at 14.7% for 2024 Q1, up from 13.7% the same period last year. Furthermore, in the first quarter of 2024, the company has also reduced total operating expenses by 17.8% year-on-year, with double-digit savings in all three OPEX line items.

SEE ALSO: Analyzing HUYA 2023 Q3 Financial Results: Solidifying Long-term Development by Pushing Strategic Transition, while Executing Share Repurchase Program

To demonstrate Huya’s commission to bringing long-term value to shareholders, Huya also provided an update on shareholder returns at the earnings conference call. According to Wu Xin, “under our up-to-$100 million share repurchase program that began in August 2023, we have repurchased 15.2 million Huya ADSs with a total aggregate consideration of $48.5 million as of the end of March 2024. We also announced a special cash dividend declaration totaling approximately $150 million in March 2024. These initiatives are expected to return an aggregate value of nearly $200 million to our shareholders.”

In addition to good financial performance and shareholder value update, Huya also brings out its upgraded content strategy by building a three-tiered pyramid of e-sports tournament and event content, with licensed professional e-sports tournaments at the top tier, premium self-produced events and programs in the middle, and e-sports events targeting massive participation from local communities at the bottom tier.

In terms of licensed content, Huya broadcasted more than 65 licensed professional e-sports tournaments in the first quarter, panning over 20 titles, with the spring splits of LPL, KPL, and CFPL attracting most viewers. It is believed that Huya’s wide coverage of popular e-sports games helps better enhance the company’s content competitiveness.

In addition, Huya broadcasted 14 self-organized e-sports tournaments and entertainment PGC shows during the same period, in which the cross-platform New Year’s E-sports All-Star Event and Huya Champions Cup for CrossFire Mobile, among others, captured users’ attention. It’s worth noting that Huya has already held some e-sports events that target people from local communities for the bottom-tier content. For example, in March, Huya hosted the second stop of Village Games series, the Youth Qujiang Village Games for Honor of Kings, in Qujiang, Zhejiang Province. This event proved to be a big success, demonstrating the company’s efforts to expand the influence of e-sports content while also promoting local culture and village revitalization. More Village Games series activities are scheduled in the near future.

Enhancing platform ecology is another key strategy for Huya to focus on this year, and during the first quarter, the company is stepping up efforts to strengthen cooperation with a number of other platforms and products, in an aim to achieve win-win results.

For instance, in February, Huya hosted the New Year’s E-sports All-Star Event featuring Honor of Kings, PeaceKeeper Elite and League of Legends competitions. Different from past experience, this event was in cooperation with three other major game live-streaming platforms, and was broadcasted on all of these platforms and other popular content platforms at the same time, breaking the content barriers. Not surprisingly, this event was well-received and even went beyond the e-sports audiences. Through deep cooperation with partners, Huya overcame platform barriers for the first time, and achieved a situation that mutually benefit from complementary content.

As Huang Junhong put it, “as an industry leader and barrier-breaking pioneer, our goal is to become a central hub within a more open content ecosystem.” The company is currently working with several live-streaming platforms on professionally generated content production, broadcaster cross-platform streaming and commercialization. Huya is also trying to bring video and live-streaming content to short-form video platforms; and enhances cooperation with Tencent Group, where Huya will bring quality content to various product lines within Tencent ecosystem, including WeChat Channels, Tencent Video, QQ, and an array of game products, thus reaching a wider user base. “Through initiatives like these, we believe we can better meet users’ needs, increase the Huya platform’s influence and create future opportunities,” Huang said.

Furthermore, building on its technology and product advantages in game live streaming sector, Huya is committed to providing its users with unique and differentiated viewing and interactive experiences, to continue solidifying its leading position. In February, the Huya Live mobile app was upgraded to version 12.0, featuring a series of innovative functions, in e-sports information, community content, game-related service functions, and interactive features on game live channels. It’s also worth mentioning that new features including AI-powered customized commentary, real-time game status information, and intelligent editing for highlight replays are also available in the new version.

It can be seen that Huya has been observing the market dynamics closely and adapting itself to changes quickly by embracing user needs and industry movements. The company’s efforts to push forward strategic transformation haves proved to be effective thus far. To quote Huang Junhong, Co-CEO and Senior Vice President of Huya, he outlined the company’s next moves at the conference call, that “through innovation across content, platform ecology, technology, products and commercialization, as well as deepened cooperation with industry partners and content creators, we aim to propel Huya’s business growth. As we fortify our leading position in the game live streaming market and expand our presence in the game value chain, we will also drive the future development of the live-streaming and game industries.”