Faced with its explosive popularity, regulators in mainland China seek to monitor live streaming

Live Streaming inside China

China’s Ministry of Culture is asking for more information from live streaming operators there, with new requirements seeking identity documents with real names for authorities who also ask that users demonstrate they are capable of “self-censoring” in line with regulations, according to a recent report in eMarketer.

Live streaming in China is not only more accessible but is an incredibly popular online activity, with the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) reporting that 324.8 million internet users accessed live streaming content as of June 2016, a figure equal to about 45% of those going online.

Sina, which owns live streaming service Yizhibo, reported that the number of live streaming services available in China had grown from 80 in January to almost 1,000 this month. The list of more popular live streaming apps includes Ingkee, Qiqi and Douyu.

However, the rapid growth of the channel appears to have left government censors scrambling to keep up. The new rules appear to have been sparked mainly by concerns about pornographic content.

Live streaming has found its audience largely among China’s younger generation. Yizhibo, the live streaming service offered by micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo, reported that more than 80% of live streaming viewers were under the age of 34, according to August 2016 data.

Smartphones, with a user base that overlaps with younger demographics, are one element driving the surge in consumer interest in the sector. Live streaming apps have reported that a growing portion of their revenue is tied to mobile streams. Fu Zhengjun, the chief executive of live streaming service Tiange, told Technode in August that he expected 70% of the company's revenue would come from mobile views by the end of this year.

Much like popular YouTube vloggers, enterprising live streamers have figured out how to profit off sharing relatively mundane aspects of their lives, such as playing video games, singing and eating. Viewers can funnel cash to performers through “gifting” — the digital purchase of virtual goods that can include items like flowers and cars.

The most popular live streamers, some of whom can draw as many as 100,000 viewers during their broadcasts, have also been tapped by digital-savvy businesses to serve as marketing influencers. Both Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace and ecommerce firm JD.com have enlisted live streamers to feature products they wish to promote, with streamers facilitating purchases by throwing a buy button up on their broadcast.

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