The rise of live streaming


Live streaming platforms are incredibly hot in China right now. In our increasingly digital and visual world, Video as a medium has become one of the most effective ways to stand out and engage with an audience. Video quickly conveys meaning and emotion. It’s memorable, and it catches the eye in a sea of text and static images. Facilitated by our ever increasing use of smart phones and mobile internet, live streaming platforms are taking centre stage.

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In China we are seeing new platforms covering all types of content and creating new internet stars with the top vloggers of some live streaming platforms earning more than 1million RMB every month.  Sicong Wang, son of one of China’s richest men and an internet celebrity in his own right recently invested in Panda TV, an online game streaming platform. Besides you’ll always hear the news that fans are allowed to see concerts alive of leading stars in a live streaming environment. 

So why is live streaming is so hot and who is watching? In this week’s Lookout we examine the hottest properties and the marketing opportunities available.


iResearch estimates that live streaming in China will reach more than 300 million users in 2016 with an annual growth rate of 30%. Live streaming platforms can be divided into four models:

  1. Game live streaming – such as Huya, DouyuTV, Panda TV, etc…
  2. Sports & performances live streaming, including mainstream video platforms such as Tencent video, LeTV, iQiyi, and Youku
  3. Show live streaming, featuring hosts with dancing or singing talents, such as 9158, YY, 6Rooms etc…
  4. Lifestyle live streaming – including the video monitoring of daily life like eating, sleeping, or events live streaming, scenic spot live streaming, such as INKE, Baidu cloud live streaming and Meipai live streaming etc…

Amongst the four models, game and sports/performance live streaming platforms are the most mature business models.  DouyuTV, is the biggest domestic game live streaming platform with 17 million monthly users in a market which is estimated to reach 100 million users by the end of 2016, up 100% YOY (iResearch).  Looking at Post 90’s consumers, Carat’s CCS data reveals they watch 151 minutes of online video every day and 121 videos every month, with users moving from PC to mobile platforms. 

However, there’s still big gap between Chinese and global peers. Live internet streaming of League of Legends World Championship in 2015 covered 36 million people and the game has 27 million daily players, with 67 million monthly. Similar game live streaming on Twitch in the USA reaches 55 million a month with more than 1 million anchors and users spending 106 minutes on the site each day.

For show & lifestyle live streaming, the content is more long-tail (with large volumes of small scale interests) and its harder to assess and control quality. Data shows that top platforms like YY reach 20 million users a month with 6Room covering 26 million monthly users.


Long Tail: The low production thresholdfor video content hosted on live streaming platforms makes it possible for everyone to be a star. This has led to an explosion of content, covering a vast array of topics, interests and perspectives. Content is typically direct to camera and in the first person angle, making the viewer feel they are being addressed personally.

‘Vloggers’: A new generation of celebrities are being created via live streaming platforms with popular, opinion leading vloggers reaching audiences in the millions and getting fees in the millions too. Papi Jiang topped headlines across the world last week with the news that she secured a $3.4m bid from Lily & Beauty, a new cosmetics e-commerce platform. This follows on from her announcement in February that she secured $1.8m VC investment. This news saw her monthly social mentions increase from just under 300,000 to over 1.6m (Carat Social Data) and since posting her first video last October, Jiang has built a fan base 10 million strong on Weibo alone. Jiang’s 70 or so short video clips on Tencent Video have attracted more than 166,000 subscribers and 177 million views.

Real Time Response: During live streaming, vloggers can receive feedback from their audiences and adjust their content in real time. Fans can leave messages as well as send virtual gifts to vloggers to show their love.

‘Fan’ tastic: Leading vloggers attract a passionate fanbase who are willing to spend money or and time on what and who they like. Especially for game live streaming platforms, iResearch data shows 38% of the fans on game live streaming platforms are willing to pay for the content provided.


Unsurprisingly the main audience on live streaming platforms are post 80s and post 90s consumers.

  • For game live streaming platforms, data from iResearch shows, post 80s and 90s account for 80% of the total users but this is a very gender divided audience – 80% are male.  Data from Carat’s CCS shows the penetration of internet gaming is even higher in the post 90’s generation, with 61% female and 71% of post 90’s males regularly playing.  And this audience has disposable income with household incomes for 80% over 8,000 RMB.
  • Show and lifestyle live streaming platforms attract different aged audiences. Taking YY as an example, men account for 70% and post 95s accounts for 44%. While for INKE, it also attracts a 70% male audience but much older with the post 70s accounting for 40% of viewers.



It’s personal…

Live streaming is well placed to fulfill personalized hobbies and interests that are key passions for the post 80’s and 90’s generation. Especially for the post 90s generation, hobbies define their sense of self. Traditional video platforms can’t fulfil all their needs, the breadth of content delivered via live streaming platforms and vloggers with specific content enables them find what they are interested in and identify with.

We see how internet game lovers can connect and compete via game live streaming platforms; basketball lovers can watch important games live on sport streaming platforms; street dancers can showcase their latest moves on dance interest sites and fans can get a deeper understanding of their idols when they post on daily life sites or share background stories

Eyes wide open…

More affluent than previous generations and with curious minds, the post 80s and especially post 90s are more willing to explore the world and seek to experience different lives in their spare time. The diverse content on live streaming platforms allows them to see other people lives in first person perspective.

Relax and have fun…

Live streaming content is less processed and in short form can be easier to consume on the go. Frequently with a happy and fun tone across the platforms, users are engaging with content to feel less stressed and find a moment of relaxation or escapism.


Though live streaming platforms have attracted criticism for sexually risqué, low quality content or too many fame seeking wannabee celebrities, this is being addressed through industry regulation. Recent government controls were introduced to enforce a real name registration system and there is attention from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) to limit ‘vulgar language and content’.

Large volumes of young consumers who are sharing their passions make live streaming platforms valuable for marketing investment. Creating content within vertical sectors like sports, games or travel or across sites to engage youth focused interests with product placement, gift placement or content co production with vloggers.

Key success factors to consider are finding vloggers who are an appropriate fit with your brand values and it’s crucial to customize content to reflect the passions of the target audience. Think about your content in the context of the overall content ecosystem, ensure it's connected to commerce and underpinned with robust data and analytics.

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