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Chinese Live Streaming Millionaires: Where Does the Wealth Come From?

If you see something in your WeChat moments like this:


You can click it and see what your friends are doing in their live stream!

In 2016, the Chinese live stream industry aggressively grew. One in every 1000 people is expected to be a live streamer, many of whom are young students and singers.  It’s hard to imagine that some of them earn more than a million dollars per year!

China’s Top Livestreamer Makes 40 Million a Year

There are a few examples of famous live streamers that can earn more than ¥10million annually.  However, normal streamers are struggling to make a living.

  • “Famous star” streamers

After peak investments between 2015 and 2016, live streaming platforms now spend incredibly high salaries on contracting famous streamers in order to increase the amount of daily users. For example, 小智(XiaoZhi), who is a game streamer in Quanmin TV (全民直播), is able to earn ¥40 million per year as a fixed salary.

live stream gaming

小智(Xiaozhi) playing League of Legends. On the right, lots of fans are giving gifts.

From the below table, you can see how crazy of a salary hot streamers can earn.

gamplay streamers

Data collected in September 2016


Although these five high earning live streamers are on the gameplay segment, other segments like the talent performance segment can also build “famous star” streamers.
Tianyou (MC 天佑) and Li Brother(利哥) are the most popular streamers in YY live. They rely on a unique performance (hosted with humorous rap and chatting). Based on the music talent, Tianyou even started to release his own singles in 2015.

  • Normal streamers – However, for most of the normal streamers, they live on the bottom of the pyramid. Their income comes from 4 parts:
  • Fixed salary – For streamers who already have a reputation, live streaming platforms will pay a fixed salary to them every month.
  • Gifts promotions – Audience members can purchase virtual gifts and send them to their favorite streamers. Most of the live streaming beginners rely on this way to earn money.
  • Advertisement fees
  • E-commerce – Some streamers choose to operate their online stores after getting a bunch of supporters.

To get more real data of gift rewards, we selected 9 streamers in Inke with 10K to 100K fans to learn about their gift incomes. Though some of the fans and high views could be fake bots created by platforms, these streamers show up on the recommendation page of Inke and represent a brunch of hot streamers.

streamers daily gifts income

On average, these nine people can get around 1K  yuan per day. Even if a live streamer has a lot of fans, she or he might only receive 50 yuan. For the high-income receiver Tia提亚小姐姐, about half of her gift promotions are given anonymously who are likely to be her relatives or her company.

Recently, a survey by Beijing cultural market management organization points out that 30% of live streamers earn less than ¥500, only 15% of streamers can obtain an ideal amount of money higher than 5000. This report reflects that not all streamers can earn a lot, and it’s not so easy as people think to make a living through live streaming.

What’s the business model of Chinese live streaming platforms?

From the report of iResearch, the main players are the 9 platforms (including mobile apps and online websites) that have more than 2 million daily active visitors. Another hot platform: Huajiao Live should also be included in the analysis.

active live streaming platforms

There are 4 active gameplay focused platforms. While the other 6 are all performance focused lives. Hani and Inke are only available on apps while other platforms operate on websites as well.

There are three primary income sources for platforms: digital gifts (main revenue), advertisement fees, and member fees.

  • Digital gifts:

gift live streaming

Inke designed a complex gift system to satisfy people’s vanity

Take Inke Live for example, all digital gifts that streamers receive will be automatically transferred into the Ying tickets, a virtual currency that can be exchanged for real money. In this system, Inke will charge around a 69% commission on digital gifts. Inke and Huajiao Live only charge a 10% commission, so the high reward attracts lots of new streamers to their platforms.

inke gift live streaming

The value of a Porsche is 666 Yuan on Inke.

  • Advertisement fees

As we know, higher web traffic equals a higher advertisement effect and higher fees. Live streaming firms can effectively target customers with advertisements based on their favorite live streaming segments. Since the ads are more tailored, businesses are willing to spend more on each ad.

  • Member fees

Some live platforms are gradually starting to set member fees on some outstanding streamers with substantial contents, which is more like the model of Youtube. Currently, the key problem is that most of the Chinese streamers are more beautiful faces than interesting and fantastic content producers, and their audiences are less willing to pay for the long-term subscription.

Many corporations also perform as good streamers. Firms are combining live streaming together with their marketing strategies. This trend is not only for top brands but also for medium size firms to enhance the relationship with customers and promote their sales.

live streaming KOL

Changdi(长帝)’s KOL is teaching how to create perfect dough

In June and July 2016, one of the Chinese oven leaders Changdi (长帝) shot four types of live streams on how to appropriately use their oven to make baked goods, during which a KOL made cookies or plaza and explained some key processes. They held the live streaming series once a week especially for a marketing campaign. Live streaming captured more than 300K views for Changdi.

live streaming KOL 2

The left button can direct buyers to Chong’s new clothing.

Another example is a digital clothing brand Chong (小虫) that targets elite females. In September 2016, Chong cooperated with WenYi(文仪)who is a famous writer and food KOL on Weibo. They gathered some typical problems from fans to answer in the live stream.

The red packet function in Taobao Live is applied to create a climax and attract more audience members. This live stream attracted 100K viewers and became a hot topic on Weibo. Their sales revenue reached ¥5million the day right after the live streaming.

Livestreaming is a tool designed for special market campaigns that raise more money than regular events. They will only hold live streams when it’s necessary while individual streamers will be on air almost every day.

China is leading a future trend in live stream model

Chinese live streaming originates from beautiful female show and gameplay. Currently, more types of live streaming are expected to come out including education, technology, fashion, etc.

Live streaming could be divided into 6 main categories:

  • Performance: Chatting, singing and dancing by a pretty female or male
  • Outdoor events: Traveling, shopping or other outdoor activities
  • Gameplay: Playing popular online games like League of Legends and Dota2
  • Sports game: Live professional sports matches
  • Education: Lessons about math, finance, health, etc
  • Technology: Presentations of new technology and relevant products

To estimate the proportion of different contents, we counted live stream rooms of different segments in YY Live. In general, YY is a performance-based platform, but it has multiple kinds of live streaming without obvious preference.

different types of live streaming in YY live

Count at 2017.3.31 Friday. 17:00. The proportion of game streaming will be much higher in gameplay focused platform

Although the ratio of education and technology live streaming is quite small, it’s a change from the beginning stages that only featured beautiful girls. The popularity of outdoor activities live stream (23%) also gives more fun for the audience with the assistance of 4G signal. Moreover, the application of 5G signal in China is expected to be achieved in 2020, which can largely promote and enrich outdoor live stream.

gender ratio change live streaming

Source: iResearch’s survey

The ratio of female audience increased from 5.1% to 36.6% in 12 months. That’s consistent with the above conclusion that more contents (makeup, fashion, and stars) are developed and involved in the live streaming.

Besides the content innovation in Chinese live stream, there could be two main trends for the future development of live stream.


Entertainment firms already use the live stream as a recruitment step. Johnnie To (杜琪峰), a famous Chinese film director, cooperates with the Huajiao(花椒) platform to select three actors and three actresses for his new movie through live streaming. Everyone could submit an application and participate in it.  Up to 4.14.2017, there are already thousands of application videos in Huajiao(花椒), where some videos successfully got 20K views.

Visual 14

Huajiao(花椒)a 360’s live stream apps, selects “China star” candidates by the views of their application videos

Thus, live stream with its real-time interaction is likely to be used for recruitment.  HR can learn about one’s ability and personality from his previous live stream video, which is much clearer than a resume and more convenient than an interview. Live stream also provides a recruitment method for other industries. In October 2016, several internet companies used this way for streamers to introduce themselves and present a true working environment. During the one and half hours, there are 92 people consulting with HR and 21 candidates giving their resume immediately.


The live stream will become a new way to make friends. Momo (陌陌), the leader of Chinese social media among strangers, developed their own Livestream platform: Hani (哈你). Everyone could enrich his or her profile with a live stream video. Users will prefer to use video to present themselves and communicate with strangers rather than just cold pictures.

Chinese live streaming: Conclusion

  • Monetization is one of the main successful factors of Chinese live streaming: It is recently imitated by some foreign live streaming platforms. This gift system invented by YY Live is different from those traditional income approaches and creates a lot of wealth for top streamers.
  • Making a fortune by the live stream is not so easy: Although some famous stars earn a lot by live streaming, normal streamers may even struggle to make a living.
  • In the future, more and more highly trained streamers will come up with various kinds of innovative performance form. As the self-media dominates the advertising channel, brands are supposed to know how to mix their brand activities with live streamers which have already been one of the most acceptable marketing ways.

To know more about Chinese live streaming, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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