Lip-sync app Musical.ly has been scooped up by Beijing ByteDance Technology Co., or simply ByteDance, the Chinese startup behind news site Jinri Toutiao, the company announced on Friday. Although financial details were not disclosed, multiple outlets are reporting that Bytedance is paying around $800 million for the buzzy video service.
Wildly popular in America and around the world, with 200 million-plus users creating and sharing 15-second music videos, Musical.ly was founded in China three years ago by Louis Yang and Alex Zhu, who will both be joining ByteDance. The startup inked its first major label licensing deal in 2016, with Warner Music, and earlier this year announced an integration with Apple Music that allows users of both services to stream full songs.
In 2016, Musical.ly rolled out a live-streaming app called Live.ly, and it has struck content deals with Viacom, NBCUniversal and Hearst, among others. It’s also become a popular site for “influencers,” with several of the app’s most popular users leveraging their large followings into music careers and branding deals: over the past 15 months, for instance, Baby Ariel signed with CAA; Jacob Sartorius with UTA; and, most recently, sisters Lisa and Lena with WME.
“Musical.ly’s vision is to make entertainment more personal, participatory and interactive, by enabling anyone to be a content creator,” Zhu said in a statement. “To achieve this, we need to constantly innovate to provide new and exciting video creation tools to our users, and we see AI as a critical factor in augmenting human creativity. Bytedance’s leading AI technologies and top-notch AI developers can empower us to innovate faster and roll out new user offerings unlike anything users have experienced before. At Musical.ly we have recently also been focused on expanding into Asian markets, and this partnership will allow us to access Bytedance’s massive user base in China, Japan and Korea, and around Asia..”
ByteDance is considered one of China’s hottest startups and is notable for keeping its independence from the three big tech conglomerates in the market, Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba. According to Bloomberg, the company is valued at more than $20 billion, and its flagship product, Jinri Toutiao (“Today’s Headlines”), is a popular news and video aggregator with 120 million daily active users.
Toutiao’s users are primarily based in China, so the move is seen as a way to tap into other markets.
“[By] integrating Musical.ly’s global reach with ByteDance’s massive user base in China and key Asian markets, we are creating a significant global platform for our content creators and brands to engage with new markets,” Zhang Yiming, ByteDance’s CEO, said in a statement.
Update (11:05 a.m.): The Musical.ly team posted a note to its users promising that “the musical.ly apps you know and love will continue on just as they have before.”