Live and click­ing

Stream­ing smart­phone apps pack­age lives of or­di­nary peo­ple as con­tent, cap­ture young eye­balls, spin money

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By MENGJING mengjing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Stream­ing smart­phone apps now pack­age lives of or­di­nary peo­ple as con­tent, cap­ture young eye­balls and spin money.

If re­al­ity TV is popular and en­ter­tain­ment prof­itable, how about com­bin­ing the two to cre­ate an in­sanely real and un­fail­ingly eye­ball-grab­bing genre? Chi­nese live video streams on smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tions such as the oneyear-old Inke are do­ing just that. In this realm, any­thing goes. Sam­ple: on one of Inke’s live streams, a young woman wear­ing heavy makeup broad­casts her­self eat­ing lunch.

On an­other stream, a live cam­era cap­tures a mid­dleaged­man­fast asleep and snor­ing away to glory.

Such fare is now the sta­ple of tens of thou­sands of view­ers of popular apps.

Real life of or­di­nary peo­ple, live — that’s what the apps of­fer. And view­ers, par­tic­u­larly the coun­try’s young gen­er­a­tion, find it en­gross­ing and en­ter­tain­ing.

“Rather than spend­ing three hours trav­el­ing to a cin­ema to watch a movie, the post1990 gen­er­a­tion en­joys what we call frag­mented en­ter­tain­ment,” said Feng Yousheng, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Inke.

On Ap­ple’s China app store, in terms of both down­loads and rev­enue, Inke topped the list mul­ti­ple times in the past few­months.

“With a smart­phone in hand, they (view­ers) can watch what­ever suits their mood, wher­ever they want. An­dif they feel they are hav­ing a good time (watch­ing such con­tent), they can spend a small amount of money to send vir­tual gifts to the stream’s host and see their own names shoot across the screen like a bul­let. That brings a lot of sat­is­fac­tion (to such view­ers),” he said.

What’s more, the crass con­tent has pro­duced so-called grass­roots stars who boast loyal armies of fans. Such stars make some real money. The apps pay them hand­somely for their ser­vices. And, de­pend­ing on their pop­u­lar­ity, brand en­dorse­ments and paid ap­pear­ances at events are con­ceiv­able.

“Hosts who are good at en­gag­ing view­ers in an on­line con­ver­sa­tion usu­ally re­ceive a big­ger pay­check,” said Feng.

The in­ter­ac­tive na­ture of the apps is their big­gest strength, said Feng. On his plat­form, the top-earn­ing hosts make tens of mil­lions of yuan a year by sim­ply sweep­ing the view­ers off their feet. Most of them do that by pan­der­ing to the de­mands of their view­ers.

Such de­mands could be for a song, a smile or some hon­est an­swers. Smart hosts with a quick pres­ence of mind thank gift-giv­ing view­ers in real time, mak­ing the lat­ter feel good, as if they were the cen­ter of at­ten­tion.

For their part, apps mon­e­tize eye­balls through ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue. Val­ued at 3 bil­lion yuan ($450 mil­lion) al­ready, Inke is one of the more than 200 live stream­ing apps that have mush­roomed in China in the past year.

A grow­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies see huge po­ten­tial in the coun­try’s mo­bile-video mar­ket.

At last count, about 106 live stream apps have se­cured fund­ing of 2.37 bil­lion yuan in 2015. Ven­ture cap­i­tal firms are chas­ing them. Such apps have be­come a ne­ces­sity for China’s top-tier in­ter­net com­pa­nies.

Ten­cent, Baidu and Alibaba have all marched into the seg­ment ei­ther by launch­ing their own plat­forms or by in­vest­ing in ex­ist­ing play­ers.

For in­stance, Xiaomi founder Lei Jun, who is dubbed China’s Steve Jobs, has al­ready launched sev­eral prod­ucts via the com­pany’s own live stream­ing app. Such launch events in­clude an on­line me­dia con­fer­ence.

His de­but on the app at­tracted 80,000 view­ers and earned him some vir­tual Fer­raris, each worth thou­sands of yuan.

Ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try an­a­lysts, the live stream­ing apps seg­ment in China is fast reach­ing a takeoff point, helped by the ex­pand­ing 4G net­works, which de­liver im­proved mo­bile video view­ing ex­pe­ri­ences via smart­phones. The grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­net stars is an­other cat­a­lyst.

Given that few 20-some­things Feng Yousheng,

With a smart­phone in hand, they (view­ers) can watch what­ever suits their mood, wher­ever they want.” CEO of Inke es­ti­mated value of Inke, a popular live stream­ing app the num­ber of live stream­ing apps that mush­roomed in China in the past year

watch TV th­ese days, back­ers of live streams are al­ready fore­cast­ing a rosy fu­ture for the seg­ment. They feel live apps may well prove an al­ter­na­tive to TVin com­ing years.

“For ex­am­ple, the Hu­nan TV sta­tion earns tens of bil­lions of yuan in ad­ver­tise­ment in­come ev­ery year. If a good host can bring in 10 mil­lion yuan in ad­ver­tise­ments to an app, to­tal ad rev­enue from 1,000 (such) hosts could equal that of a tra­di­tional TV sta­tion,” Feng said.

XU KANGPING / FOR CHINA DAILY

A cy­ber celebrity (left) live-streams her shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence from a mall in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince in June. Such “stream­ing” or hosts at­tract tens of thou­sands of view­ers on­line.

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