The number of Chinese people on live-streaming services reached 344 million at the end of last year — nearly half of China’s total internet population of 731 million.
Hosts, usually girls, live-stream their performances online. The content varies from singing to dancing to video games and doing other random stuff. The audiences? Mostly male.
China’s live-streaming industry more than doubled in size in 2016, reaching revenues of around $3 billion, according to Credit Suisse.
More than 100 companies now offer the service. Popular apps and websites include Panda TV, Douyu TV, YY, Inke, and Momo.
Content varies depending on the time of the day. After midnight, racy content is common, such as this scantily clad girl dancing with flirty movements. During the daytime, content such as video games is more popular.
Users can buy virtual gifts for hosts as a way of showing support or affection. Hosts then take a percentage of the token and receive revenue. Huajiao, one of the live-streaming sites, takes 10 percent of the revenue; Inke takes about 70 percent.
Top live-streamers can easily attract more than 100,000 viewers to individual screen showrooms. Money comes from viewers purchasing items like virtual lollipops at 0.10 yuan (1.5 cents) apiece, or a yacht, which costs 1314 yuan ($193).
However, the live-streaming trend has not gone unnoticed by officials in Beijing.
In November, Chinese authorities introduced a ban to regulate the industry. Eighteen apps were shut down in April 2017 for obscene or illegal content.
In April, CCTV reported that a section of Today’s Headline, a popular news app in China, called “Huoshan Live Stream,” contained vulgar content and was being investigated.
One host says that they can earn thousands of yuan by performing sexually seductive content, but very little money if they don’t.