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WATCH: China’s livestreaming phenomenon is making waves

LIVE-STREAMING in China has become a way of life for many young Chinese netizens. Whether they are hosting a show or watching it, the market has seen a huge surge in interest from both consumers and businesses.

The fastest-emerging Internet sector barely existed in China three years ago, but last year produced revenues of more than CNY30 billion (US$4.3 billion) and according to an estimate by investment bank China Renaissance Securities, is set to more than triple that by 2020. That puts it on track to overtake cinema box office receipts in a few years’ time.

Tech giants like Tencent Holdings, Alibaba Group Holding and Baidu Inc. have been leading investments into live-streaming platforms, hoping to cash in on the phenomenon to boost existing services in e-commerce, social networking and gaming.

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Livestreamers, also known as “anchors”, that host their own “shows” can make a tidy sum of money when viewers buy them virtual gifts. There are even agencies, such as Three Minute TV, that feed the industry through trained anchors who work on over three dozen platforms.

In Three Minute TV’s “militarized” production house, the anchors – all of whom are women – work in shifts live-streaming themselves in booths decorated to look like bedrooms. They entertain fans by singing or flirting, and any money made from the virtual gifts bought for them is split between the platforms, agencies and the anchor.

Additional reporting by Reuters