In case you’ve been living under a rock and the rock squashed your smartphone, livestreaming is China’s new national infatuation; the latest digital endemic in the colourful history of the Chinese internet. Livestreamers sign up to a dedicated livestreaming app, of which there are now well over 200, and broadcast themselves doing any number of unlikely things in real time, limited only by the imagination of the livestreamer and, naturally, the vigilance of the Cyberspace Administration of China.
For scale, some livestreamers broadcast to audiences of more than 1 million people at any one time. During a livestream, viewers may shower their favourite livestreamers with ‘virtual gifts’, which they purchase with real money. At the end of a broadcast, livestreamers may then exchange their gifts for real money, with the livestreaming app pilfering a percentage rate between 10-70 – depending on the app – per transaction.
The industry is valued at roughly 5 billion USD after just two years, and it’s estimated there are up to 400 million registered livestreaming accounts in China alone. Recently, there’s been a boom in companies referred to as wanghong fuhua (网红孵化) or ‘internet celebrity incubators’. Wanghong fuhua specialise in growing a livestreamer’s online presence until they have garnered a large audience to whom the livestreamer can then advertise and sell cross-promoted goods during their broadcasts.