New China live streaming regulations could benefit brands

Industry experts say the crackdown on China's exploding live streaming market could actually be a good thing for brands and their content strategies.

China’s live streaming boom has spawned online celebrities such as Papi Jiang (Source: Youku)
China’s live streaming boom has spawned online celebrities such as Papi Jiang (Source: Youku)

CHINA – China’s long arm of censorship now reaches live streaming, a wildly popular phenomenon that has brands such as Xiaomi, Mondelez and Durex jumping on bandwagon to broadcast product-related videos to consumers in real time.

Earlier this month, Chinese authorities ordered the shutdown of thousands of live stream accounts which purportedly host “inappropriate content”. Starting next year, online live performance operators must apply for permits and performers are required to register their real identities.

Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific, Amber Liu, vice president and chief brand officer of Leo Digital Network, said the tigtening of rules is not necessarily a bad thing and it could in fact “wipe off the steam” caused by the live streaming frenzy.

“Some of the marketers caught in the fever of the live streaming boom may resort to irrational stunts and tactics,” Liu said in an email reply. "In order to win in the live streaming race, brand marketers have to put professionalism at the centre of their strategies and strive to create valuable content.”

Pascal Martin, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, said the restrictions are more likely to affect the individual streamers than the big players, bringing to mind the recent incident in which a Chinese couple was detained for live streaming their hideout in an Ikea outlet.

Many of the big brands own live streaming platforms, such as Alibaba’s Taobao Live. Existing platforms such as Panda TV, Douyu, Momo, Youku and Tudou are also likely to adapt and integrate the new regulations as part of their mode of operation, Martin said.

“Individual live streamers will have to become a little bit more professional and careful but the live streaming business model (just like for YouTubers in the West) is sufficiently attractive to attract new streamers and continue to generate growth. And the best among them will prosper,” Martin added.

Meanwhile, Liu opined that the regulations will help to synergise the content with brand strategies.

“Those who blindly follow the live streaming trend will inevitably damage the brand. Marketers have to remember to incorporate the brand’s value in the campaign,” said Liu.

Both Liu and Martin agreed that the role of KOLs will not be diminished as a result of the regulations. “KOLs are at the centre of the live streaming phenomenon. Their ranks might be reduced initially as a result of the new regulation but those who stay within acceptable boundaries will prosper. They will probably become more professional overtime,” said Martin.

Although live streaming is no doubt an effective way to increase and measure engagement, Martin said marketers should explore other methods, including blogs, ad inserts and search engine marketing.

“There will be an ongoing balancing between the different media, with live streaming as one among others (particularly relevant for the millennials segment) but not every consumer has as much time to spend watching live streams as some (not all) of the millennials do.

"The cost of activating various communication means on the internet are constantly rising, and brands willing to exploit these medias, including live streaming, unless they are very lucky to hit a viral home-run, will have to become more professional in planning their online and offline media spend," said Martin.

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