Millions of Chinese Stream Reality Shows Starring Themselves

Lulu Yilun Chen, reporting for Bloomberg: Pole dancing, bungee jumping, a woman eating maggots: at any given hour, millions of Chinese are live-streaming all of this and much more on their smartphones. Crazes come and go at neck-snapping speed in the world’s largest online marketplace, but China’s live-streaming phenomenon shows staying power and is already a significant business. Tiny startups and internet giants alike are making money selling virtual gifts — flowers, cars, toys — to people keen to reward their favorite live-streamers. As the business matures, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and others may start selling ads on the most popular streams. “This isn’t a fad that will disappear, as the business model has proven to be viable,” said Zhu Xiaohu, managing partner at GSR Ventures Management Co., who invested in Inke, one of about 200 live-streaming startups that have attracted an estimated $750 million in venture capital. “But the amount of interest in this sector is so high, bubbles could be forming and many will fail.”

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