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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 YY.inc, 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.