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China to act on fake live stream viewer figures

Authorities in China plan to legislate to prevent organisers of livestream events from falsifying viewer figures, according to local media.

The move, spearheaded by the snappily named Office of Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, is intended to regulate the growing livestreaming ecommerce sector, reports the state-owned China Global Television Network (CGTN).

CGTN describes livestreaming ecommerce as a “new business model combin[ing] entertainment with consumption” which is becoming increasingly popular in China. Like the teleshopping of old, the sector relies on big retail promotions to shift products en masse, such as the recent Double 11 shopping extravaganza, which generated a mind-boggling US$56 billion in sales.

“On such a shopping spree, popular livestreaming influencers” – young celebrities and models hired to be the faces of the shopping channels – “would normally hit their new record scores in viewers and sales,” the site explains.

“The number of viewers, comment interactions, and even sales can be falsified”

“But to which extent the [final] results are valid” is now in question, “as the industry gets competitive and mature.”

The commission’s proposals are open for public consultation until 28 November.

The drive for regulation comes after a Tencent News article revealed that the practice of buying traffic to inflate viewing figures is widespread among influencers.

“The number of viewers, comment interactions, and even sales can be falsified,” a source told Tencent.

The audience for live streams of all kinds has exploded in China this year, with Chinese consumers, like their counterparts elsewhere, consuming more concerts, video game streams and other events as the coronavirus hit. As of March, 150 million people had viewed a livestreamed concert, and more than half a billion any kind of live stream (a number likely to be even higher nearly eight months later).


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