The Chinese government’s strict censorship requirements make it difficult for foreign streaming services to operate there. As a result, western streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube aren’t available. However, other streaming services are extremely big in the People’s Republic. Short video apps and live streaming are particularly popular. According to Statista, China’s live streaming market will be worth over $16 billion if current trends continue.
Keep reading to learn more about all of China’s most important streaming services.
Live TV Streaming Services
Live streaming pioneer YY helped pave the way for China’s live streaming boom. All kinds of user-generated live streams are available on the platform. Topics range from entertainment, music and sports to e-learning videos and more. A virtual gifts system lets content creators make money.
PPTV is one of China’s most important sports-oriented streaming services. In 2017, PPTV secured the rights to broadcast WWE wrestling matches. A variety of different soccer leagues have signed deals with PPTV, as well.
Douyu TV is one of the most popular e-sport-centric streaming services in China. The company made headlines when it achieved unicorn status in 2017. A unicorn is a company that has been estimated to be worth $1 billion or more.
Like Youku, Momo shifted gears after its founding. Originally a hook-up style dating app in the vein of Tinder, Momo moved into reality TV production in 2018. Though some on-demand is now available, Momo is still best known as a live streaming service. One of its key features that helped Momo become popular is the open nature of its social network. You don’t have to send a friend request to a Momo streamer to interact with them.
Yizhibo is a live streaming service that integrates with Weibo– the Chinese version of Twitter. Because Yizhibo is popular among Chinese millennials, many Chinese-based brands use Yizhibo as a marketing tool. Many of Yizhibo’s features are comparable to Instagram Live.
Huajiao is yet another live streaming app that’s popular in China. The company gained notoriety in 2015 when it hired actress Fan Bingbing to become a Huajiao live streamer.
Alibaba-owned Taobao Live combines video streaming with e-commerce. Business owners, service providers and even farmers use Taobao Live to promote their goods and services.
With over 515 warehouses across China, JD is one of Alibaba’s main competitors. JD recently launched its own e-commerce-oriented live streaming service, which it calls JD Live.
Live e-sports platform HuoMaoTV is the streaming service of choice of Jonny “HumanBomb” Cheng– one of Hong Kong’s top Street Fighter players. Because the service caters to professional gamers, it’s often compared to Twitch.
Inke became one of the most well-funded live streaming companies in China following its 2018 IPO. However, 2018 turned out to be a bad year for the company financially because it failed to offer features that aren’t available on other similar platforms. Revenue from its live-streaming business declined 4.9%, according to Technode.
On-Demand Streaming Services
Tencent– one of the largest on-demand video services in the world with over 80 million subscribers– is largely unknown in the west. Similar to Netflix, Tencent Video offers subscription plans that give its users access to movies and TV shows. In addition to offering films from Universal, Miramax, Lionsgate and others, Tencent also produces original content.
Search giant Sohu followed Yahoo’s business model in the early 2000s. Its video platform was one of the first streaming services to purchase the rights to air popular American shows like House of Cards and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. While not as influential as it once was in China, Sohu is still one of the major streaming services in the country.
In 2017, the multi-faceted entertainment site iQiyi had even more subscribers than Tencent. Roughly half of its video content comes from foreign production companies. iQiyi is owned by search giant Baidu– the equivalent of Google in China. Before founding iQiyi, CEO Yu Gong worked at Sohu. He left to start his own company because he felt that Sohu wasn’t moving fast enough to develop internet video technologies. In addition to on-demand video content, iQiyi produces online games and graphic novels.
Mango TV is the official streaming service of the Hunan Broadcasting System– China’s second largest television network after China Central Television. Available titles include Happy Camp, Day Day Up and more. Like many Chinese streaming services, Mango TV is free to use and funded by ads.
Youku started out as China’s version of YouTube, but it now has more in common with Hulu. Along with user-produced content, Youku users can watch recently aired TV shows and movies. It’s available in over 80 countries and has millions of users.
YouTube-style on-demand video site Bilibili’s key differentiator is that its content is centered around animation, comics and games. Other types of videos include music, science, dance and technology.
Douyin is one of the most popular video apps in China. Like Vine, most of Douyin’s content consists of short videos. The interface lets you do things like add filters and special effects.
The Tencent-owned short video app Kuaishou attracted attention in May when the company revealed that it had accumulated 200 million daily active users. In addition to watching videos, Kuaishou users can buy gourmet food and handcrafted products.
Xigua Video is another on-demand service in China that’s similar to Netflix. The company produces its own originals and buys licenses to popular TV shows and movies. It’s owned by ByteDance– the same company that created Douyin.
Hybrid Live and On-Demand Streaming Services
In addition to airing live gaming streams, Douyu TV competitor Zhanqi also produces original content. In 2016, Zhanqi gave NBA star Kobe Bryant his own Zhanqi channel– and a $15,000 sword.
Alex Munkachy is a freelance writer, game developer and hobby robotics enthusiast. You can find his blog about robotics news and reviews at robotfanatics.com.