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Live online streaming: The next tech goldmine? [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2016-6-2 17:25:21 |Display all floors

At 10 o'clock on April 29, a live online stream started.

Wang Rui'er, the so-called Zhubo, or anchor, was half an hour late. The 23-year-old looked stunning in her low-cut black dress. She kneeled down in front of a computer, beside which laid a microphone, a camera set against a tripod and two fill lights.

Wang apologized in an affectedly sweet tone to the more than 4,000 people who had been waiting for her in front of their computers, saying she would dance a little to make up for being late. She twisted her tiny waist and stroked her long, curly hair. She put out one leg in front of the camera and stroked it for a while. The live stream had officially begun.

Wang is one of tens of thousands of online "anchors" who live stream on computer and mobile phone-based Chinese sites. The anchors and the sites constitute the booming live streaming industry in China.

Unlike traditional online streaming sites such as Youku and Tudou, where users watch movies and TV dramas, these sites are online platforms -- and most of them are mobile apps -- where netizens watch sports games, video games, talent shows or the everyday lives of attractive men and women. The users can chat and interact freely with the anchors and the rest of the audience.

The rise of the live streaming industry

Online video streaming in China can be traced back to the early 2000s, but this new round of craze started only in 2014. Following Amazon's takeover of game video streaming site Twitch in August of that year, the live streaming industry began to flourish in China.

Research said that there were nearly 200 streaming sites in China by the end of 2015, with 116 receiving investment. The number of users exceeds 200 million, roughly one seventh of China's entire population and one third of China's online population. The size of the market is estimated to be between 9 billion yuan (about US$1.37 billion) and 15 billion yuan, and is projected to grow to 100 billion yuan by 2020.

Such platforms can be roughly divided into three types. The first is sites where pretty women sing, dance and chat with users, an example being, which was launched in 2005 and listed on the NASDAQ in 2012. The second is video game streaming sites, which emerged only in 2014 and developed rapidly, represented by Douyu TV. The third is sites where people broadcast their lives, one example being Ingkee.

Investment funds and tech giants have dived into the fast-growing industry. Some of internet juggernauts have launched their own streaming apps, such as Netease and Xiaomi, while some have invested in others, including the first generation online streaming site Youku Tudou, and others are doing both, like internet giant Tencent.

For instance, Douyu TV, an online platform where users can watch others play video games, received an investment of US$100 million from Tencent and Sequioa Capital in March of this year.

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Post time 2016-6-2 17:25:55 |Display all floors

Not all rosy

Despite the glittering, promising appearances, the industry has raised a few eyebrows. Some have cautioned against the investment binge, saying that the value of the industry has been overestimated. They fear that the industry will plummet like group-buying sites and online person-to-person banking which were once the darlings of investment funds.

The industry also faces the problem of making money. With sites like YY where people watch others sing and dance, the profit is mainly generated by online users who pay real money to buy virtual flowers and other gifts for pretty anchors. Then the money is divided between the streaming platforms and the anchors. But in video game and entertainment sites, the business model is still being explored.

More importantly, streaming industry has been embroiled in controversy almost since the day it emerged.

An anchor on Douyu TV was found live streaming sexual intercourse this January. The broadcast was later reported to local police and the site was fined and the anchor investigated. Streaming that has violent or sensational content has also been found on other online sites.

On April 14, China's Ministry of Culture unveiled a number of online video sites it suspects had streamed shows of sexual, violent or a criminal nature. The ministry pledged to formulate policies to regulate the industry and publish "blacklists" of platforms and anchors that violate the rules.

The live streaming of the anchor Wang Rui'er on April 29 was stopped when she fondled the sofa teasingly. She was banned from performing on the site for 999 hours and all her previous videos were deleted. But the woman said she still wanted to be a celebrity in the live streaming industry.

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