In China you can make money with simply streaming your life. The first time I streamed live was at a gym in Shanghai. To get the picture right: I was not doing any fancy exercises. I was actually running on the treadmill. No makeup, sweaty, went out the day before; it’s safe to say I did not look my best. Even though I didn’t much interact with my viewers, after 15 minutes I had over 500 people watching my stream. They even started sending me digital gifts; stickers which they paid for and appeared on my screen. It’s said that the most active users can make up to 20’000 euro per month. I made 3 euro so far. Not much, but more than I’ve ever earned before while sharing very boring sequences of my life (like below when I streamed out of a caffè in Shanghai).
The Chinese apps for live-streaming have caught on much more quickly and broadly than western platforms like Periscope or Facebook Live. Tens of millions of young people live in huge cities far from where they grew up and are seeking human connection—even if it means watching and interacting with a stranger eating dinner (Bloomberg, 2016).
Last year, more than 200 live-streaming apps appeared on the market. Tencent has already bought various platforms. It’s not clear yet, which platform is going to establish itself. The market is very dynamic and there’s a lot going on. Most of the apps are really similar and have the same features.
The app I used was Inke. The China-based live streaming app Inke enables users to earn money from their content. As mentioned above, Inke has a monetisation model, where viewers can send virtual gifts to hosts through in-app purchases. The host receives 30 per cent of the gift’s value, which encourages them “to produce high-quality content”, while also keeping the platform profitable (Riaz, 2016).
Hosts can also “enhance the viewing experience” by adding interactive stickers. Inke lets users make money directly within the app, in contrast to competitors like Periscope and Meerkat, which instead have options of including a digital tip jar or links for viewers to buy products. Publishers should look to Inke as an example of how to incentivise users to broadcast and engage with channels.
Another very popular app is Yizhibo. Yizhibo is very new, however their cooperation with Sina Weibo has helped fuel user adoption. Functionally, this app is very similar to its competitors but since it’s not that popular yet, it is easier to find video bloggers and for streaming stars to reach an audience. You can get an audience of around 5,000-8,000 people per broadcast.
Other apps to know are Huajiao, QQ Live from Tencent and Douyu for sports and gaming. Douyu is a competitor to Inke which reveived investment from Tencent as part of their series C 226 million USD funding round (WalkTheChat, 2016).
What does this mean for companies?
In short, it means that live streaming is big today, and will get bigger tomorrow. Because of its interactive nature and impressive reach it has great potential to promote live events and get the fans closer to your brand. Some companies already saw huge success through live streaming, such as Maybelline which sold 10’000 lipsticks within 2 hours during Angelababy’s livestream.
French cosmetics company L’Oreal used their own live-streaming accounts to broadcast questions they posed to their brand ambassadors at Cannes, including veteran actress Gong Li, actress–singer Li Yuchun, and the star Jing Boran, best known for his role in Monster Hunt, in France to promote Time Raiders (Fergus, 2016).
Like many of their counterparts on Western social media platforms, a huge number of Chinese Internet celebrities use their platform to promote skincare and makeup products, a behavior they’re likely to be getting paid for.
Manchester United was the first European football club to use the live streaming app Yizhibo and had around 38K viewers to a fan event in China. On Oct 22nd, for the first time FC Bayern München streamed live before their home game against Frankfurt. They reached around 6K viewers during a 10-minutes live stream and had 24K more users watched the video at a later time. It is to point out that 80% of the views happened afterwards.
To sum it up, live streaming is a very hot topic and it is to be expected that more and more western companies will experiment with it. According to my colleague Xinyun, even though the market is very diversified at the moment, in a few months there will be only two or three apps dominating. It’s hard to say which one, so companies just have to wait, see and adjust.