Short video and live streaming sector has 15 million hosts in China

China’s massive short video and live streaming sector has continued to expand even though viewer numbers nationwide have reached a plateau. The number of professional short video hosts and live streamers in the world’s largest internet market totaled 15.08 million at the end of December last year, the state-run China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA) said in a report. The expansion shows how short video and live-streaming campaigns have boosted online retail sales, as popular influencers and small merchants peddle everything from lipsticks, food and beverages, to smartphones and cars. The CNSA estimated this commerce segment was already worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Last year, 71.2% of users surveyed by the CNSA said that they made online purchases based on viewing short videos and live streams, compared to only 42.7% in 2022, the report said.

The CNSA said the same 2023 survey also found that more than 40% of internet users considered short videos and live streams as their “primary consumption channel”. There are now more than 660,800 companies in China that run online video services as their primary business, according to the CNSA report. Sales from live-streaming e-commerce jumped 58.9% in the first 10 months of 2023 over the same period in 2022, reaching CNY2.2 trillion and accounting for 18.1% of all online shopping in China, according to the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM).

In spite of the broad popularity of influencers in internet shopping campaigns on the mainland, the number of online video users has already plateaued, according to the CNSA. It estimated that there were 1.074 billion users of online video apps and other video services – about 98.3% of the country’s total internet population – at the end of December last year, which showed a modest increase from 1.04 billion in 2022. Still, the number of online video service users in China’s rural areas has been growing at a faster pace than those based in cities, according to the CNSA. It said 98% of rural internet users subscribed to online video services at the end of December last year. In 2022 and 2023, the number of rural users of such platforms rose 12.6% and 6.8%, respectively. By contrast, the number of users in cities grew just 2.1% and 1.9%, respectively, in the same two-year period.

The popularity of short-video and live-streaming retail campaigns has also made the sector a target of increased state scrutiny. In November last year, an article published by the People’s Daily called for tighter oversight of live-streaming e-commerce, which it blamed for creating “chaos”. Instances of misconduct in live streaming, from fraudulent advertising to misleading pricing, should be addressed and punished for the sake of the sector’s healthy and sustained growth, the People’s Daily said. China’s new live-streaming guidelines, jointly issued by the NRTA and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in June 2022, include 31 banned behaviors and requirements for influencers to have relevant qualifications to discuss certain topics, such as law, finance, medicine and education, the South China Morning Post reports.