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How to take Live Broadcast to another level

Live Broadcast took over China in 2016. How has it evolved since then? Where are the room for growth?

The woman on camera has something special for us. She holds up a tall, pink bottle of body wash that looks like it was made by Barbie.

“Isn’t it pretty?” she coos. “I think it’s beautiful.”

It’s a Monday afternoon and there are roughly 20,000 people online, watching as the live streaming host showcases the body wash, waxing poetic about its health benefits and how, as women, we need to treat our bodies well. Orange text covers the screen as users add it to their shopping cart. After a brief product Q&A, the woman puts away the bottle and prepares for the next product in the queue: a red rice cooker.

Live streaming isn’t new in China, but it’s certainly early-stage. Early in 2016, live streaming grabbed headlines as scantily clad women pranced and bantered in front of their smartphone cameras, raking in hundreds of thousands of RMB per month in virtual gifts from China’s zhainan or geeks. In May 2016, the Chinese government cracked down on five major live streaming sites, resulting in a flurry of ad hoc rules, such as registering your Chinese ID number in order to create an account, or bizarre point systems to punish plunging V-necks and short shorts. And with over 100 live streaming apps in the country, this new web industry is still fragmented and chaotic.

History of live technology in China

9158, a live streaming application, has always been considered as the pioneer of live streaming technology application in China. Went back to 2005, when the company was set up, its profit model was widely unrecognised and not mainstream. Today its business is imitated by many 100s of live streaming startups in the scene.

According to Easy to Live, another live streaming application, Co-Founder Zhang Lan, people nowadays are more willing to show and share their hobbies and activities to others than they were in the past. This has fuelled the vast growth of live technology among Chinese population.

Show-mode brings the profits

According to Huachuang Securities released in April 2016, the live broadcast market size of about RMB 15 billion, by 2020, the total size will rise to RMB 106 billion. Among them, live shows hosted by everyday netizens, is expected to achieve a the market size of RMB 40 billion. Numbers evidently points to a booming industry, and not too many people doubt the industry is too hot.

We only have to look at the amount of time people spend on live broadcast to know that this is not a bubble. - IDG Capital VP Tong Chen

Show-mode refers to a live show session being hosted by someone who carries out his or her activities while opening a discussion forum, in which he or she will chat with the audience who are watching the show and posting their comments. The profit that could be drawn from this type of live technology application usually derives from virtual gifts that are given by the audience to the host, with the hope that audience can get the host’s attention.

There have been numerous examples of this activity, evident in the services offered by Meipai, Yizhibo, and Tmall Live Streaming. These websites provide the opportunities for people to become the hosts of their own show, while inviting others to watch their show hoping for them to give virtual gifts.

At this point, the industry changes are also supporting the argument that live broadcast will boom: Only the personality of the hosts are the determining factor to a successful broadcast. Industry is accomodating many new social personalities, as experts say that these models will take the industry into a "universal live broadcast" era.

Even though this model is quite popular in random chatting platforms, especially the ones that rely on the beauty and personality of the hosts, this mode has not been very effective in live sports and gaming. In these two modes, the audience will be more focused on watching the show instead of joining the chatting with the hosts, as the hosts also focus more on the game they are playing instead of on the comments from the audience.

So the questions are

Is live broadcast business restricted to bigger media players or an opportunity for netizen entrepreneurs? What are the factors to differentiate competition? In addition for broadcasters to generate revenue by pure-selling, what are the other ways to make money?

Live isn't a new thing

9158, as early as 2005, has setup and promoted live broadcast. However the business do not grow to a sizeable because they were not adopted at BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) level. Despite the potential interests, business prospects for live broadcast never materialised. Back then, threshold is rel

Back then, threshold to hold a broadcast is high because it was a manual service platform, rather than a machine service platform that it is today, so there are bottlenecks at both ends of the platform, from the user to the anchor - 9158 COO Mai Shien

Today, 9158, YY have all launched an independent live platforms, their second shot at the "always broadcast" business model, Netease media and other information platforms are vigorously promoting their live business, including live video and live shopping sites. This has led to a plethora of smaller players creating such platforms.

But times are changing

Easy to live co-founder Zhang Lan said that some ordinary people in the live platform come online to show their hobbies or engage in small talk, but they are not in the business for rewards or money.

In the field of sports, octopus TV founder Zhang Xuan said that although the sport is still a more professional and manly industry, but there are other varieties that can attract a large audience base such focusing on tactics, data and topics of female's interest.

From the users point of view, the platform provides the anchor other ways to host the program. Purpose is simple, to meet the individual appeal of the audience.

For example, 9158 will introduce a young woman when the show is talking about sports. She will then join in the conversation to offer her views, sometimes joining in the discussion of professional topics, but mainly offering her views for the wider audience, thereby distracting the audience away from the main topic at times.

This concept is similar to universal broadcasting, purpose is to expand the audience size, but also to expand the contents of the anchor group. Taking into account the continuing increase in 4G penetration and content production, tools will only increase, improving the popularity of the broadcast, and increasing other product derivatives as well.

Combining live broadcast with advertising

In the future, there could be combination between live streaming business model and the advertising model. The posting of both offline billboards advertisements and other offline media can also be used together with digital banner advertisements to promote the live broadcast event. This will enable everyone to become a celebrity by nature.

However, there isn't any precedent case on this business development opportunity. Therefore, even though it may be appealing, one must really take full consideration before deciding to use his or her personal selling effort to promote their live streaming event.

Privacy issues

As the application of live technology is currently on the rise, it is interesting to analyse its effect on someone’s privacy. As more and more people share their daily lives, privacy becomes an issue that comes to rise. Crudely speaking, the more people share their private lives, the less privacy they may have.

This privacy issue roots from every person’s attempt and determination in keeping his/her private life private. Each of us has our own requirements for privacy, thus we ourselves need to be careful in sharing content that we actually want it to be private.

As the application of live technology is currently on the rise, it is interesting then to analyse its effect to someone’s privacy. As more and more people share about their daily life now, privacy has become an essential issue that comes to rise. The more people share their private life, the less privacy they may have.

This privacy issue roots from every person’s attempt and determination in keeping his private life private. We know our own requirements for privacy, thus we ourselves need to be careful in sharing content that we actually want it to be private. We need to carefully select content that we share, so that our privacy could be well-preserved.

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