Streaming and Video-Hosting Services in the Largest Consumer Market in the World

Now thus far we’ve mostly focused on how you can reach new audiences with livestreamed events as a way to offset losses from a lack of live event marketing. But we can take this one step further. With livestreaming you can fully untether yourself from traditional event constraints like geography when courting new audiences. You could be extending your reach from the west and into other national markets, like China, using livestreams and VODs. 

How could you be taking advantage of streaming and video-hosting services in the largest consumer market in the world? Our article this week offers a brief overview of the streaming and video-hosting platforms available to you in China. 

But first, a few caveats (there’s always a catch!). 

  1. This isn’t quite as straightforward as setting up a YouTube account. Language differences are an obvious roadblock preventing Western companies from using Chinese video and streaming platforms.
  2. There are time differences to consider. Don’t forget that while geography now means nothing to you, the unrelenting march of time will always be a factor. For example, if you set up a livestream at 1 PM EDT on a Sunday, it would be 1 AM on Monday in China’s single time zone. The likelihood you’d make a splash at that time is pretty low. 
  3. There are a handful of laws that limit your participation as a foreigner or a foreign company. We’re not just talking about topics and imagery that are off limits, we’re also talking about streaming platforms that you are barred from streaming on because you’re not a Chinese citizen. 

We don’t want to dissuade you from bringing China into your event strategy, but rather motivate you to be strategic. Maybe timed-release VODs would be a solid addition to or substitute for livestreams. Maybe working with a Chinese firm, a KOL or KOC could be a workable strategy. Maybe your company already has partners in China that could be drawn into the mix. You have options. It’ll just take a bit of work.

We’re happy to say that Decibel does have the language resources and knowledge of the Chinese market to work a China strategy into your virtual event plans, so if you’re enticed drop us a line. 来吧!

Anyway, here’s a very brief overview of China’s livestreaming platforms and user behavior. Chinese citizens have a number of options when it comes to producing or consuming livestreams.

The Chinese digital environment was already heavily geared towards livestreaming even before the COVID-19 crisis began, with the most popular and abundant being more or less, informercials. Services like Douyin (which you know as TikTok), Kuaishou, and Little Red Book all support direct livestream marketing for products on Taobao and JD.com (Amazon equivalent marketplaces). Everyone and their grandmother (literally) are in on this. Spending a couple hours and a wad of cash on product livestreams after work is a 50 billion dollars a year national pastime. 

Platforms like Momo (formerly a dating app), and Yizhibao are more geared towards a variety of livestreams. There are plenty of products being hawked (in particular makeup on Momo) but you’ll also find streamers who retain large audiences simply by being unusually hot, hosting live cooking demonstrations and wine tasting, singing while being unusually hot, or playing video games. 

Unfortunately, these platforms are exclusive to Chinese citizens. As a foreigner you’re more than welcome to spend your money and watch, but you’re forbidden from hosting your own streams. Story of my life in China.

So, what platforms can you use? Could you just use something like Zoom to reach China? For now, yes. Although if history can tell us anything, it’s that China’s recent step to ban Chinese citizens from hosting chats on Zoom is pretty much the first step towards an outright ban (once a domestic clone rises to replace it). Using Chinese platforms like YoukuBililbili, or Kuaishou are your safest bet. These services are owned by major Chinese companies (AlibabaTencent, and Bilibili Inc.) who are out to displace Western behemoths like Google, so China won’t be undercutting them any time soon.

YOUKU

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Alibaba’s Youku is a video-hosting and livestreaming platform that’s equal parts Netflix and Youtube. It’s just as easy to browse your favorite TV shows as it is to watch a live streamed video game or music video from your favorite local artist. VODs and livestreams on Youku can be monetized with ads so you have the option here to draw some revenue as long as you pay for premium access. Livestreaming is possible, but requires a verification process in Chinese and Chinese bank account to support your premium account. 

BILIBILI

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Bilibili is pretty similar, but most popular with the under-25 crowd which is why it’s worth some attention. Bilibili used to be more geared towards fans of Manga and animation but now casts a much wider content net. The self-posted videos on here are less consistent in their quality than Youku but offer an extremely cool feature – user comments are time-stamped to particular points in the video, so that those comments can across the video at the appropriate time on each viewing. This feature helps to keep conversations alive and draw comments and attention long after you’ve posted your content. Bilibili is currently focused on video-hosting, but as everyone and their mother are getting into the livestreaming industry in China, it won’t be long before Bilibili throws their hat into the ring as well.

KUAISHOU

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Kuaishou is Tencent’s version of Instagram (you’ll find it in your app store fully in English as Kwai). You can take short videos and photos and apply tags just like on Instagram and livestreaming is available to users hawking goods from Taobao stores. Kuaishou is a newcomer, but as its been marketed heavily towards smaller cities in China (all the ones you can’t name off the top of your head), it offers great opportunities for foreign brands to market towards a largely ignored youth market.

Right now, we’re preparing a podcast that further addresses the challenges of and opportunities in extending your virtual events into the Chinese market. Do you have any questions you’d like us to answer? Reach out today!