Chen Zhou (second left), CEO of social media platform YY Inc, interacts with journalists at the Boao Forum for Asia, March 24, 2017.
The live-streaming industry will become increasingly intertwined with other sectors in 2017 which will become a catalyst for new business models, after it saw an explosive growth last year, panelists attending the Boao Forum for Asia said on Friday.
“The mounting enthusiasm, from both consumers and investors in 2016, has awakened other sectors' attention to live streaming, which is in essence an effective tool,” said Zhang Hongtao, president of live-streaming app Laifeng.
He said 2017 marked the first year when live streaming would become widely leveraged to improve services in education, entertainment, medical and other sectors.
Spurred by venture capital investment, the live-streaming industry only started to take off at the start of 2016. But its strong growth momentum has put it ahead of other emerging internet apps, such as online food deliveries and travel reservations.
Thanks to the prevalence of smartphones, easier Wi-Fi access - and a greater willingness among young people to share their personal information - the number of live-streaming app users in China topped 325 million by the end of June, data from the China Internet Network Information Center showed.
But at the end of last year, investors became more cautious, because most players don't know how the sector will evolve into the next stage to garner sustainable growth, said Chen Zhou, CEO of social media platform YY Inc.
“I think the whole industry will become calmer this year,” Chen said.
“There will be little growth potential for players which limits their businesses to live broadcasts of hosts' daily lives. The next gold mine will be how to leverage the technology to help other sectors,” Chen added.
In 2016, tech giants as well as startups all marched into the sector, looking for opportunities. Chinese internet major LeEco acquired sports streaming platform Octopus in January 2016. Tencent launched QQ Live in April and invested in live-streaming shows specific to gaming, like Douyu.
As the industry upgrades itself, more efforts will also be made to cultivate quality content. Instead of the heavy focus on entertainment in 2016, diversification will become the key, said Feng Yousheng, CEO of Inke, a widely used live-streaming app in China.
“The business models will change accordingly. Live-streaming platforms will no longer rely just on virtual gifts from users,” Feng said.
“They will be more advertising-driven,” he said, adding that some cyber celebrities were now being paid 100,000 yuan (,500) to broadcast live an offline product launch event.