Small and medium-sized livestreaming platforms in China are finding it tough going, as the fast-growing industry is entering a mature period of steady growth.
Bohe Live, the livestreaming arm of leading Chinese gaming outfit NetEase Inc, recently announced it will shut down in December, following a difficult year for many smaller livestreaming firms that have struggled to survive on the crowded battlefield.
The golden days may be gone for fledgling livestreaming channels, as the Chinese authorities have stepped up regulation of such services this year.
"Since mid-2017, a series of livestreaming platforms have ended their services," said Zhang Xintian, analyst at internet consultancy iResearch. "In recent years, Chinese regulators have tightened their oversight of the industry, leaving less room for them to skirt the rules. Buoyed by forward-thinking investors, major players have gained key momentum in terms of attracting many viewers and hosts, giving others a harder time in the market."
According to Xinhua News, the Beijing Public Security Bureau shut down 530,000 online livestreaming channels in the third quarter, especially targeting vulgarity, obscenity and gambling-related content.
With a raft of popular short video apps such as Douyin dominating Chinese netizens' smartphone screens, the booming online streaming industry also faces a shake-up.
Statistics from mobile analytics company App Annie backed the new trend.
TikTok, Douyin's overseas short video app, ranked No 1 for downloads on Apple Inc's App Store in October both at home and abroad.
"Rising short video apps have attracted a huge following among Chinese netizens, taking up quite a lot of people's spare time," said Cai Heng, co-founder of online video content producer Star Station TV. "Lacking sufficient funding, many livestreaming platforms have shut down or are struggling in a tough environment."
Zhang agreed, saying successful emerging short video apps could squeeze out livestreaming providers.
"As people have limited time for entertainment, new entertainment formats will inevitably have an impact on the existing ones," Zhang said. "Short videos apps have a lower threshold than livestreaming platforms. Offering short videos that usually last for 15 seconds, the former will easily occupy people's fragmented time. While the latter usually offers deep, immersive experiences."
Zhang noted the overall industry is still experiencing steady growth, with major competitors shifting their focus from rapid expansion to seeking more profits by reducing costs.
According to App tracker Analysys Qianfan, Tencent's QQ Sports took the top spot in terms of active users in October, gaining more than 20 million monthly active users. Douyu and Huya took second place and third place, respectively, reporting 18 million and 13 million monthly active users.
"Basically, the industry is entering a mature stage, and that leaves less room for change in the future," Zhang said.