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Sina Weibo’s local TV partnerships in China boost profits, user growth

The multiple partnerships China's Weibo, the microblogging platform of SINA Corp., has with media outlets across China contributed largely to the company's rapidly growing profits and user growth.

Speaking during a May 9 earnings call, Weibo CEO Gaofei Wang said the Chinese social media platform's various tie-ups with government organizations and media companies have helped it play an "increasingly important role in the current media landscape in China."

The former general manager of SINA Mobile said Weibo's partnerships with national media outlets such as Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily and CCTV News enabled the platform to offer livestreaming and short videos of the annual sessions of China’s top legislative and advisory bodies, which aired in March of this year.

As a result, total video views relating to the two livestreaming sessions exceeded 3 billion, up 25% year-over-year. Further, Weibo was granted the rights to a livestream conference held during the two events, which led to roughly 500 livestreams, nearly double the numbers on the previous year, and attracted nearly 200 million users.

By March, Weibo had partnered with 1,700 multi-channel networks, roughly 400 more MCNs from the last quarter.

Through such strategic partnerships, Weibo has become the "most important political content consumption platform on mobile internet," the CEO said during the call, adding that both daily posts by content creators and the number of monthly views grew by double digits from 2017.

Indeed, according to its latest financial results, the company added 70 million monthly active users, or MAUs, year over year and reached 411 million in March of this year, with mobile users representing 93% of overall MAUs. Average daily users had a net addition of 30 million users year over year and reached 184 million this March.

Wang responded to recent regulatory activity in China, as authorities clamp down on online content, which has led to the removal of a number of apps and websites in the country. He said Weibo has "readily adjusted to the current regulatory environment" by choosing to provide mainstream contents on its platform such as the "two sessions" streaming.

He added that his platform has been working with the Chinese government on internet regulation for more than a decade and as a result, Wang describes the social media platform in this way: "Won’t say comfortable but more experienced in terms of [working with] the government under the current regulatory changes."

Weibo’s profits were up 111% year over year, totaling $99.1 million in the first quarter of 2018, and net income per share was 44 cents compared to 21 cents for the same period last year.

Net revenues totaled $349.9 million, marking a 76% year-over-year increase and exceeded the company’s estimates of between $335 million and $345 million.