Tech: Chinese women are creating a billion-dollar live streaming industry based on singing and slurping soup

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Live streaming has become one of China's most profitable industries, spurred on by young women who sing, dance, and eat bowls of noodles for strangers. Every day in China, thousands of young women log onto their computers — makeup freshly applied, plastic-surgery scars still healing, at times — and promptly begin broadcasting live to millions.
It matters little what they air. Sometimes it's high-production value entertainment, sometimes just a meal to be eaten. In China, there are 150 internet platforms for viewers seeking out just about any form of live-streamed entertainment they desire.
Experts say the phenomenon has grown out of China's growing ecommerce industry and waning social sphere, in which men and women recede into their private lives online.
This is the $4.3 billion live streaming industry China has created, and it shows no signs of stopping.
The life of a live-streaming anchor has become more polished and professional over the past several years. Today, large firms hire thousands of women to appear on-camera.

Source: Reuters

Big media companies like Tencent and talent agencies like Three Minute TV often pay for anchors' cosmetic surgery and give them space to sing, dance, flirt with users, bring on guests, or sometimes just eat a bowl of soup.

Source: Reuters

"I want more people to watch me, to spend Huajiao coins on me," Jing Qi, a part-time live streamer told Reuters, referring to the gifts she can redeem for cash. "In the end, I'll be able to marry a tall, handsome and rich man."

Source: Reuters

The biggest earners can rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. That money will typically get split between the hosting site, the agency, and the woman doing the streaming.

Source: Bloomberg

"Guys are generally more shy in China, so they tend not to ask girls out. However, they're able to observe the way girls talk, where their interests lie and how they look through live streaming," a 23-year-old male user from Hebei Province told Business Insider.

Source: Business Insider

As the man and Jing attest, the goal is sometimes to meet up in real life if the online session goes well. It serves as a kind of low-stakes first date, in which the man can show off his wealth and the woman can earn gifts and money.

China's government has tried to regulate the content shown by sites. In July of 2016, it shut down more than 4,000 show rooms and fired or punished more than 18,000 live streamers, citing obscene or crime-inciting content.

Source: Reuters

In many cases, the goal of the stream is to create the illusion of intimacy. Streaming companies will create sets that mimic women's bedrooms to make users feel more at home. In reality, the stream takes place in a stark office or back room.

Source: Reuters

Creating such an illusion ups the chances users will buy virtual gifts, such as flowers and cars.

The growth of the industry has been so rapid, multiple companies have had to consolidate rather than compete. "Live streaming has always been a 'cash-burning' industry," an executive from the streaming site Douyu told Reuters.

Source: Reuters

The operations have sometimes become "militarized," as dozens of girls at a given company will work in three shifts around-the-clock.

Source: Reuters

The lifestyle can be grueling, not to mention incredibly boring depending on the type of streams women will host in a given day.

Source: Reuters

But in the world's most populous country, where there are more people on streaming sites — some 344 million — than the population of the United States, people will go to extraordinary lengths just to get noticed.

Source: Reuters

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