Chinese live-broadcast platforms expanding into Belt and Road countries

By Li Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/18 18:53:39

Chinese live streaming apps are going abroad to many Belt and Road countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Molka Mazghoun is a young woman with a PhD from the city of La Marsa in Tunisia. She now lives in Kwangju in South Korea and works in a university teaching computer coding. However, she has a part-time job as an online anchor.

She broadcasts live feeds for around two hours a day through the smart phone app 7Nujoom, which was developed by a Chinese company. Mazghoun has already gained more than 10,000 followers, and most of them are from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria and Syria.

She plays various card games online with her fans and also watches her fans challenging each other when she is live. In addition, she plays music for the challengers. "[Broadcasting on] 7Nujoom for me is like an academy to improve my capacities in a joyful way," she said, adding that she makes extra money by doing this.

Mazghoun is one of the anchors taking advantage of Chinese live-broadcast platforms in the Belt and Road countries. According to research done in June by Tencent Research Institute, a social science research institute founded and supported by Chinese Internet giant Tencent, Chinese live-streaming platforms mainly go abroad to 12 Belt and Road countries in areas such as Western Asia, Northern Africa and Southeast Asia. The top three download countries are Indonesia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia; the top three countries with live-streaming payments are Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Thailand. There are 11 Chinese live-broadcast platforms that have gone abroad, and eight of them went to Belt and Road countries in Western Asia, Northern Africa and the Middle East.

A professional live-streaming studio in Egypt. Photo: Courtesy of Liu Boxia

Living in a foreign world

Liu Boxia, Chief Operating Officer of Beijing-based Fission Technology Co, Ltd, said their company aims to make Arabian and Turkish online live-broadcast entertainment platforms, so they developed 7Nujoom and Haahi. Now, the two apps have over 10 million registered users and have signed more than 3,000 anchors from many countries including Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Moreover, 7Nujoom has over 1 million grassroots video and voice anchors.

Liu said the Middle East has a rather developed mobile Internet environment with 3G and 4G speeds, adding that there is not that much entertainment online, so live-streaming platforms have the ability to thrive in these areas. Before 7Nujoom opened in the region, most of the countries did not have live-streaming apps.

Su Jian, the CEO of Mico & Kitty Live, said their live-streaming app Kitty Live has had over 20 million downloads, 9,000 signed anchors and hundreds of thousands of grassroots anchors. Their users and anchors are mainly from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America

"Now many Chinese enterprises choose to further develop their overseas market in Southeast Asia because of its geo-advantages," Su said. "However, live-streaming products have more advantages in countries with large populations and relatively high GDP level."

The live-streaming platforms have brought new opportunities and possibilities for careers for the people in these countries.

Amy Nashaat, 30, used to work in a factory in Ghisa, Egypt. She did not know anything about live steaming before 7Nujoom became available. Now she is a full-time live-streaming anchor and has had about 600,000 followers who are from all over the world but mostly Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I work four hours a day, chat with my fans, discuss certain topics in our daily lives and play music," she said. "I have always dreamed of becoming a professional anchor and now I have realized the dream."

Respect local culture

Liu said it is very important for foreign enterprises to fully understand and respect local culture if they want to blend into the local society. The 7Nujoom team invested a lot of time communicating with the local entertainment industry, stars, media and the government to negotiate the live-streaming programs, and they hired many cultural experts to make rules for the content of their live streams.

Su agreed with Liu. He said in his company, the most important point is that the live streaming cannot have any pornographic content or any violation of local religious customs. Both apps have a content supervision team working around the clock, in which many employees are local people.

Lara Mattar, 24, is from Cairo in Egypt. She is a model and radio DJ at a local radio station. She is now a part-time anchor with about 70,000 fans on 7Nujoom.

"Arabian countries' culture is very much different with that in China, and people think and act differently," she said. "I think strict rules are necessary for live streaming in Arabian countries so as to offer audiences due respect."

Mattar also said that she hopes the live-streaming industry in Egypt can become more and more professional and focus more on anchors' unique talents.

"The culture in our country can breed many talented people in this industry, and Arabian countries have had many advanced ideas for live streaming," she said. "I hope the live-streaming industry can become a star-breeding bed in the Arabian world."

Su said they respect the variety of different countries and regions' cultures, and they have found that audiences in different countries like different live-streaming content. As a result, they have developed cooperative relations in content producing.

"We invited popular star Mai Davika to represent Kitty Live in Thailand and cooperated with Thai Playboy, whose Playboy bunnies have many fixed channels; we also live broadcast Thai boxing competitions," he said. "In Singapore, we created a dialogue program Kitty Talk, and we cooperate with male model competition organizers and live broadcast their shows."

Regarding the religious element, the live-broadcast platforms organize many charity events for the public good, which is in line with the countries' social common understanding and wins the support of local people.

Liu said because of religion, people in the Arabian world generally have relatively high charity awareness. As a result, to blend into local society, they have held many charity events. During this year's Ramadan in June, they organized a few anchors to go to Amal Association Sala Jadida, an orphanage in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. The anchors played, read books and shared iftars with the orphans, which symbolize unity and happiness.

"Ramadan is the most important month in Muslim culture and people believe that in this month they should do good things to help others," he said.

In Southeast Asian countries it is the same. Lynn, 22, lives in Bangkok in Thailand. She is a university student and started live streaming last September. Broadcasting daily for about two hours, she now has more than 28,000 fans on Kitty Live. Most of her fans are from Thailand.

She said the most impressive thing about live streaming was joining in the public welfare event during the Songkran Festival this year with 100 other broadcasters on Kitty Live.

"We cleaned Silom Street. I was born in Bangkok, and I love Bangkok," she said.

Su said that understanding local living habits is also important.

"For example, when we first opened the Middle East market, we found the anchors' reward and payment in the app store rose very slowly," he said. "We realized local people like to use cash to pay on delivery, so we developed a local payment channel, like the prepaid cards sold in China and we have a special sales team for large payments."

Cooperation and communication

Liu said the Chinese government's policies and the Belt and Road initiative have helped them a lot in developing overseas markets in Arabian countries. Also, with China's rising international status, more foreigners are willing to cooperate with Chinese companies.

Many anchors also grew interested in China through using Chinese live-streaming platforms. Mekkawi is one of them. He is a web celebrity of original funny videos in Egypt and an anchor on 7Nujoom. He visited China in January and came to Beijing to live broadcast his life.

Liu said his company's staff accompanied him during his live stream of the streets in Houhai and Nanluoguxiang. Many of his fans saw him eat tanghulu (ice-sugar hawthorns) and other street snacks and were all very curious. They asked hundreds of questions about what he was eating and how it tasted. Also, some of them had never seen snow and down jackets and asked a lot of questions about China's weather.

"I know that China is a very great and civilized country with a long history. China has invented many of the most advanced technologies and live streaming is one of them," Mattar said. "Many great talents can be found in the live-streaming industry, and it's the same all over the world. I hope very much to live stream to Chinese audiences and someday visit China."

Newspaper headline: Broadcasting beyond


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