Streaming to success in China

If you needed evidence of just how popular live streaming is in China, take a look at the eSports industry. Streaming is an integral part of eSports, with users watching and engaging with their favorite players online. The market is so successful that at the 2022 Asia Games in Hangzhou, eSports will be a medal event.

Across China, more than 100 million viewers watch a live online video event every month, creating revenues of $4.4bn in 2018, a 32 percent increase on the previous year.

For international businesses - and educational institutions - streaming represents one of the largest online service opportunities in China. Whether its students exploring a virtual classroom environment, or gamers donating tokens to their favorite players, the opportunities to monetize online streaming are countless, and stretch across a range of industries.

This article will provide international companies with an overview of the streaming market in China, and help identify where those looking to expand into China can get started.

Education

In 2020, millions of students across China have access to online tutoring and educational services for the first time. This is driving a wave of new e-learning experiences, many of which can be monetized. One estimate from Frost & Sullivan suggests China’s online education market will more than triple in value to $99 billion by 2023.

Soaring levels of innovation in e-learning creates new opportunities for international universities and education institutions popular with Chinese students. In 2018, almost 700,000 Chinese students left the country to study abroad. Retaining – and growing – the revenue this huge group of students offers will require investment in online resources and payment systems capable of processing tuition payments in China.

Gaming

In the online gaming sector, gamers typically reward their favorite players with tokens. Securing a popular player to stream their experience with your game is a powerful way of generating viral exposure and awareness too.

International gaming companies cannot ignore the monetization opportunity that streaming presents. Partner with an ePayments provider who can help you set up ‘coins’ that viewers can use to reward their favorite gamers.

You can find out more about the Chinese gaming market in this blog.

Music

Music streaming is a key market for international companies in China – and subscription-based services are growing. Tencent is the dominant music streaming provider, boasting more than 650 million monthly active users, and 31 million paying subscribers. Subscribers to music services can then benefit from features such as offline listening, and high-quality audio.

The convenience of these music streaming services, particularly on mobile devices, is helped by the popularity of mobile-based payment methods provided by WeChat Pay and Alipay. Currently 5 percent of users in China pay for music on a digital platform, but with this figure set to rise to 8 percent by 2020, companies that set-up payment integrations with WeChat and Alipay will be in a strong position to benefit from this growing consumer group.

Influencers

The rise and rise of streaming across a range of industries has also created a new generation of influencers in China. Their success emphasizes the size and scale of the ePayments opportunity in this market. ABC News reported on one Beijing resident who left his job as a senior analyst to become a full-time host on Inke, one of China’s largest streaming platforms. Since 2015, he has earned more than $624,000.

The way influencers earn their income on streaming platforms illustrates the unique nature of the ePayments market that surrounds them. Instead of earning a fixed salary, influencers often receive virtual gifts. For the Inke host these included fireworks, lollipops and even Porsche cars. The value of such gifts can total almost $3,000 a day.

Live.me is one livestreaming application through which these influencers operate. Based in Los Angeles, it is majority owned by Chinese mobile app developer Cheetah Mobile. Its goal is to connect musicians, singers, actors, DJs and comedians with an authentic fanbase. Live.me was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2018.

Many influencers also use their official WeChat accounts to promote their sponsored content, before redirecting users to their company website when it’s time to make a purchase. To maximize the conversion rate from payment page to purchase in this process, companies must partner with a payments provider that offers payment via WeChat, using RMB.

For more information on providing localized payments support, read our product overview.

Reaching out to the wider world

Companies with operations in multiple markets may also be able to use an investment in China’s live streaming market as a base to expand their operations elsewhere. UpLive, a streaming application which markets itself as ‘a talent agency of instant online celebrities’ was reported to be the most downloaded application in Japan, and the second in a dozen other countries.

Next steps

From educators to entertainers, the online streaming and e-learning market offers a starting point for success in China for a host of international companies. With many Chinese workers and students accessing online services remotely, channels and preferences are changing rapidly and may not reflect traditional expectations of doing business in China. To succeed, international companies need a firm understanding of the payments market in China as it exists today. They also need an ePayments partner with the expertise to connect them with locally preferred payment methods and currencies, including mobile-first options and tuition transfers.

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