Live stream­ing of­fers in­stant fame

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By XINHUA

What do a child do­ing home­work, a young man eat­ing din­ner and a fe­male “an­chor­woman” belt­ing out pop songs have in com­mon?

They are among the mil­lions of Chi­nese live-stream­ing what, to some, ap­pear to be me­nial, ba­nal tasks, but for the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who tune in ev­ery­day, there is a cer­tain charm that keeps them com­ing back for more.

Live stream­ing gen­er­ates huge prof­its for the host web­sites and cat­a­pults many “pre­sen­ters” to overnight fame, while lin­ing their pock­ets. How­ever, the run­away suc­cess of stream­ing has the au­thor­i­ties con­cerned, as the ser­vice is be­ing mis­used to spread ob­scene and vi­o­lent con­tent.

Ac­cord­ing to China In­ter­net Net­work In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter, by the end of June, there were 325 mil­lion livestream­ing users in China — about half of the coun­try’s en­tire on­line com­mu­nity.

This has pushed the de­vel­op­ment of live-stream­ing web­sites and ap­pli­ca­tions. Fig­ures re­leased by in­ter­net re­search agency iRe­search show that, on av­er­age, a livestream­ing “plat­form” was es­tab­lished ev­ery three days this year. There is plenty of op­por­tu­nity to mon­e­tize the ser­vice, too, and more than 30 such web­sites and apps have se­cured fi­nan­cial back­ing ex­ceed­ing 5 bil­lion yuan ($7.2 bil­lion).

In Au­gust, ma­jor livestream­ing web­site douyu.com an­nounced that in­ter­net pow­er­house Ten­cent had bought a 20 per­cent stake in the stream­ing web­site for $226 mil­lion.

The sites op­er­ate in a reg­u­la­tory gray area, and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ists agree that there is a press­ing need to draw up a suitable su­per­vi­sory frame­work for the sec­tor, while the au­thor­i­ties have warned web­sites that if they do not take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the con­tent streamed on their sites, they could be shut down or even pros­e­cuted.

Ris­ing stars

Huang Xue, 24, is a self­styled an­chor­woman on the live-stream­ing app Inke.

“All I need is a cell­phone, head­phones and makeup,” Huang said.

She sings pop songs and says “Hi” to her fans. In re­turn, her fol­low­ers send vir­tual flow­ers, hearts and ap­plaud her per­for­mance. How­ever, the most cov­eted form of gra­tu­ity is a dig­i­tal red en­ve­lope de­posited in Huang’s e-wal­let by her ador­ing view­ers.

“I only make a few hun­dred yuan a month — that is peanuts com­pared with what many of the top ‘pro an­chors’ make.”

Many of these pro an­chors are women. They tend to work with high-end stream­ing equip­ment, their faces of­ten plas­tered in makeup and their fash­ion choices leav­ing lit­tle to the imag­i­na­tion.

On­line celebri­ties on livestream­ing sites gen­er­ated about 58 bil­lion yuan in 2016, more than the 44 bil­lion yuan made at the box of­fice in 2015, ac­cord­ing to China Busi­ness Net­work.

Ac­cord­ing to iRe­search, China has more than 200 livestream­ing apps and web­sites, with an es­ti­mated mar­ket value of about 9 bil­lion yuan. On ma­jor web­sites such as inke.com and douyu.com, the an­chors can earn huge sums of money from col­lect­ing red en­velopes, even though a per­cent­age is shared with the host web­site.

Of all the live-stream­ing web­sites, inke.com is one of the most suc­cess­ful. It was val­ued at 3 bil­lion yuan within just six months of its de­but in March 2015.

Fall from grace

The temp­ta­tion of more money has proved too much for many on­line celebri­ties, who have cho­sen to go the “ex­tra mile”.

In Oc­to­ber, sev­eral “an­chor­men” on kuaishou.com re­port­edly broad­cast them­selves dis­tribut­ing money to the poor in Liang­shan Yi au­ton­o­mous prefec- ture in South­west China’s Sichuan prov­ince. It later tran­spired that once the cam­eras stopped rolling, they took the money back.

In Novem­ber, a man was de­tained in Shang­hai for em­u­lat­ing drug use to his fol­low­ers.

Some an­chors have even been caught in “com­pro­mis­ing po­si­tions” dur­ing we­b­casts, ac­cord­ing to a re­port on youth.cn.

The au­thor­i­ties are be­gin­ning to draft and im­ple­ment mea­sures for this emerg­ing sec­tor.

In Bei­jing, thou­sands of ac­counts on live-stream­ing web­sites have been shut down since a na­tional reg­u­la­tion came into ef­fect on Dec 1, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties said last week.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment has pun­ished or closed more than 2,500 web­sites across the coun­try since a cam­paign against on­line pornog­ra­phy was launched in April this year, the coun­try’s anti-pornog­ra­phy of­fice said on Thurs­day last week.

More than 3.27 mil­lion pieces of “harm­ful in­for­ma­tion”, in­clud­ing items deemed “erotic”, had been deleted as of Novem­ber, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the Na­tional Of­fice Against Porno­graphic and Il­le­gal Publi­ca­tions.

“Nar­cis­sis­tic and vul­gar con­tent is not suitable,” iRe­search CEO Zhang Yi said, adding that the in­dus­try is still in its in­fancy and once it loses its “shock of the new” ap­peal, user num­bers will in­evitably de­crease.

Ma­jor live-stream­ing web­sites, in­clud­ing hua­jiao.com, douyu.com and yixia.com, have agreed to re­move of­fen­sive con­tent from their plat­forms, and help build a cleaner, safer on­line en­vi­ron­ment.

“The in­dus­try will ma­ture in two to three years,” said Liang Zhi­wei, Inke vice-pres­i­dent. “Now it is a crit­i­cal turn­ing point for our fu­ture.”

Num­ber of live-stream­ing of June

WANG ZHUANGFEI / CHINA DAILY

XU KANGPING / FOR CHINA DAILY

An on­line celebrity broad­casts her­self buy­ing cloths in a shop­ping mall in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, in June.

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