On a sizzling summer time’s day final 12 months, the 90’s boy band Backstreet Boys clambered on to a stage in Pennsylvania and belted out hits as 44 million viewers tuned in from 1000’s of miles away for the web live performance hosted by China’s WeChat Channels.

The present is only one of many occasions held by WeChat proprietor Tencent to advertise the app’s short-video platform – described by the tech big’s founder Pony Ma as “the hope of the company”.

Tencent Holdings Ltd has tapped different entertainers too like Taiwan’s Jay Chou and Irish boy band Westlife for livestreamed concert events and, in keeping with a supply, has arrange a workforce to construct a group of content material creators because it seeks to problem the dominance of ByteDance, the proprietor of TikTok and Douyin, and Kuaishou within the short-video enterprise.

“Tencent hopes it can turn Channels into the next WeChat Pay. It has a shot at it. But it is also going to be difficult,” stated Liao Xuhua, a senior analyst at analysis agency Analysys.

WeChat Pay grew to become the second-biggest participant in China’s cell cost market inside a 12 months of its 2013 launch, behind Alipay which is owned by Jack Ma-founded Ant Group.

Two sources acquainted with Tencent stated the significance of Channels has been repeatedly communicated throughout the firm.

The two-year previous platform has been a shiny spot for Tencent in an in any other case dismal 2022 when income for its different merchandise, corresponding to video games and cost companies, had been slammed by tighter gaming laws and strict COVID-19 curbs.

The whole variety of views on Channels surged greater than three-fold final 12 months, Tencent stated this week because it revealed its newest development figures for the platform.

Daily lively creators and video uploads greater than doubled.

Gross merchandise worth (GMV) from livestreaming e-commerce, the place telegenic personalities hawk items on-line in actual time, jumped greater than 800 % on Channels, the corporate stated.

It didn’t disclose absolute figures.

A LatePost report says Channels’ each day transactions from livestreamed gross sales pitches reached greater than CNY100 million ($15 million, or roughly Rs. 122 crore) in September 2022 for the primary time, indicating an annual fee of about CNY36 billion (roughly Rs. 43,000 crore).

But Douyin was already aiming to deliver its GMV to over 1 trillion yuan ($155 billion or roughly Rs. 12 lakh crore) in 2021, a six-fold leap from 2020 ranges, sources stated on the time. ByteDance doesn’t publicly disclosee official GMV numbers.

Integrating merchandise

Tencent has been integrating lots of its merchandise, starting from Tencent Meetings to WeChat Mini Program, with Channels to assist creators livestream content material identical to the U.S. band Backstreet Boys.

Tencent Meetings is a Zoom-like teleconference service whereas mini packages are like apps on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android working methods however much less knowledge intensive and run inside WeChat.

An integration would permit, for instance, a podcast host to conduct an interview on Meetings and livestream it on Channels. If the host recommends a product in the course of the chat, a hyperlink can pop up on the display to take viewers to a Mini Program the place they’ll purchase the product utilizing WeChat Pay.

Tencent has additionally slashed the edge for monetisation on Channels, permitting customers with as few as 10 followers, versus 1,000 earlier, to start out making a living by way of commercials.

TikTok requires content material creators to have greater than 10,000 followers to start out monetising.

Channels has additionally opened up advert alternatives “like never before”, stated Li Yikai, normal supervisor of Americas and EMEA at advert company Nativex, versus WeChat that pushes a number of advertisements a day.

“When you are already scrolling and come across an ad, you don’t think twice about it. So naturally you come across a lot more ads with short videos,” Li stated.

In November, Tencent President Martin Lau stated Channels’ promoting income was on monitor to achieve 1 billion yuan within the fourth quarter of 2022.

For TikTok and Douyin, analysis agency Insider Intelligence estimated in April final 12 months that advert revenues would collectively attain greater than $30 billion (roughly Rs. 2.4 lakh crore) for 2022.

Channels has additionally began charging e-commerce retailers a 1 % to five % fee payment from this month.

Douyin has been charging 1 % to 10 % since 2020.


While some analysts see Channels as Tencent’s finest probability to meet up with ByteDance, others imagine it will likely be powerful for it to change into as large as Douyin, the Chinese model of TikTok.

“When you have to start from being a social network app and then enter into the short-video space, you have to build up a whole e-commerce system to support it … I won’t say they can’t get there but it’s very difficult,” Analysys’ Liao stated.

But Shawn Yang, managing director at analysis group Blue Lotus Capital Advisors, is bullish on Channels given the potential of WeChat’s site visitors.

WeChat, China’s hottest chat app, has greater than a billion lively customers.

“For example, in Douyin or Kuaishou, you won’t be able to ask your viewers to add you on WeChat. But on Channels, you can quickly add somebody on WeChat,” Yang stated.

“This is very beneficial to those who already have their own private traffic on WeChat,” he stated.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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