Channels, WeChat’s answer to short video app Douyin, tests livestreaming function


WeChat has reportedly begun testing livestreaming on its short video feature Channels with a select group of content creators. Tencent’s do-everything app has a huge user base in China, but it is a relatively late entrant to short video and livestreaming e-commerce. — SCMP

Tencent Holdings’ do-everything app WeChat has reportedly begun testing livestreaming on its short video feature Channels with a select group of content creators, as it increasingly competes with popular short video apps Douyin and Kuaishou in the short video and livestreaming e-commerce space.

Starting last week, a small group of Channels users was able to access the livestreaming function in beta mode, Chinese media outlet Jiemian reported last Friday. Jiemian’s test of the feature showed that viewers were able to watch livestreams while using other WeChat services. They could also like and comment on the livestreams, and share them via chat messages and WeChat’s social media feed, Moments.

WeChat did not immediately respond to queries regarding the beta test of the Channels livestreaming feature.

Channels is the short video section in WeChat, which the app first began beta-testing in late January. By July, less than six months after its launch, “father of WeChat” Allen Zhang said the feature had already accumulated 200 million users. However, he did not specify whether these were daily active users or monthly active users.

Unlike Douyin and Kuaishou, which are apps dedicated to short videos, Channels runs within WeChat alongside many other features from messaging and games to mobile payments. The section features a feed of videos selected based on popularity as well as recommendations from users’ WeChat friends and content creators they follow.

The time limit for videos is one minute, although with the latest update, certain users are able to post videos up to 30 minutes long.

WeChat has an enormous user base in China, reporting 1.2 billion monthly active users in June. However, it is a relatively late entrant to the short video market, which has seen a surge during the coronavirus pandemic according to a report by research firm QuestMobile in June.

China’s biggest short video app Douyin, ByteDance’s domestic version of TikTok, was launched in 2016. It recorded a 50% increase in its daily active users from 400 million in January to 600 million in August.

Tencent-backed Kuaishou, which started focusing on short video even earlier around 2012, is the country’s second-largest player, recently reporting that it had hit its target of 300 million daily active users in the first two months of the year.

Like WeChat, both apps have been aggressively expanding into live-streaming, which is more recently becoming a major e-commerce sales channel in China.

Douyin announced last month that it would be tightening its e-commerce policies to ban links to third-party websites on its livestreaming channels, effectively preventing merchants from directing traffic to popular e-commerce websites like JD.com and Alibaba Group Holding’s Taobao.

(Alibaba is the parent company of the Post.)

Kuaishou, meanwhile, also unveiled ambitious plans last month to groom 10,000 livestreamers and host over one million e-commerce livestreaming sessions in the coming year.

WeChat’s move to introduce livestreaming within Channels is part of its efforts create a comprehensive ecosystem amid its recent push into e-commerce, said Zhang Dingding, an Internet industry commentator and former head of Beijing-based research firm Sootoo Institute.

“Livestreaming is now an essential feature for a product,” Zhang said. “With livestreaming, the value and function of Channels will definitely be amplified, but it’s still early to call it a game changer for the industry.”

WeChat added a live-streaming function for its mini apps – apps that run within WeChat itself – earlier this year in February. As of last month, about 100,000 merchants have used the livestreaming function, according to data from WeChat. With the latest update to Channels, merchants can also increase their exposure by linking to their WeChat shops on their Channels pages. – South China Morning Post

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