Turn on a computer in China and you’ll find a seemingly endless number of opportunities to tune into live-streamed programming: basketball games with superstar athletes, fashion shows with celebrity models, video games with average at-home citizens, and more. At the end of 2016, the China Internet Network Information Center estimated that approximately 344 million people in the country were consuming live-streamed content.
As more Chinese internet users spend time staring at their screens, there is a clear opportunity for event organizers to deliver professional education. But taking advantage of that opportunity isn’t as simple as online broadcasting in other parts of the world. While North America–based event organizers can take a do-it-yourself approach with Facebook Live, YouTube, and other user-friendly social-media platforms, the live-streaming environment is under serious scrutiny by the Chinese government. Regulations from the Cyberspace Administration of China can punish users who stream content that the government thinks threatens national security or social order.
Meredith Brogan, vice president of solutions and learning development at the video platform INXPO, said the company’s clients can broadcast through the INXPO platform and reach users in China. They must select a proper content delivery network (CDN) provider. “We have two different CDN provider options for streaming to China, Akami and ChinaCache,” Brogan told Convene. “The first, Akamai, goes along the Pacific Rim as close as it can to the China firewall without entering it, so Chinese attendees can access the content. This option works around the Chinese government and hasn’t caused any repercussions.
The Chinese government has the right to take this privilege away at any time.
“The other CDN option is ChinaCache, which works within the Great Firewall of China and obliges to their government restrictions,” Brogan said. “We have an ICP [internet content provider] license to be able to stream, but the Chinese government has the right to take this privilege away at any time.”
Despite the need to navigate additional regulations, organizations looking to connect with the next generation of face-to-face attendees have plenty of reasons to put in the extra work in China. Global consulting firm McKinsey forecasts that 76 percent of China’s urban population will be considered middle class by 2022 — a massive increase from the 4 percent in 2000. As incomes continue to increase, many of those middle-class professionals will be ready to invest in registration for face-to-face events. For now, live streaming seems to be a strong alternative to capture their early attention.
The key to success with streaming to China is setting the right expectations, and plenty of testing.
“The key to success with streaming to China is setting the right expectations, and plenty of testing,” Brogan said. “It’s important to pick the CDN that best fits your audience size and location within China, and establish what level of streaming performance is expected. For example, ChinaCache, since it works directly with the Chinese government, is a more expensive option. [More] staffing is required for monitoring social activity, which needs to be concerned and planned for.”