The best practices for streaming delivery to China (Part 1)

2022/11/01 | 5 mins

There is much talk about China's great opportunities in the video streaming sector. In this article, we will explore this fascinating topic, looking at the potential of the streaming industry in the Asian giant, the specific challenges of streaming delivery in China, and methods to ensure smooth and high-quality live streaming in China.

A look at streaming opportunities in China

There are compelling reasons to ensure that delivering streaming content to China is an incredible business opportunity.

On the one hand, according to data from Statista, the number of streaming video users in China is expected to reach 729.6 million by 2025. On the other hand, according to a recent study, the rise of 5G networks in China will boost the valuation of the short video market to US$134.30 billion and the live streaming market to US$76.4 billion by 2025.

For reference, the only country that could overtake China in this sector by 2025 is the United States; if that's not a sufficient indication of China's potential, then nothing is.

What are the challenges of delivering streaming content to China?

As you might expect, great business opportunities do not come without great challenges. In the case of delivering streaming content to China, those challenges can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Network challenges
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Content restrictions
  • Video hosting issues

Network challenges

China is a unique market in many ways, one of them being the way its network works. Unlike any other country in the world where ISPs seek to facilitate efficient access to the Internet, in China, the priority is to have control over the content that is delivered. This leads to many services and websites not working in China, including streaming. Put another way, building your organization's web presence in China requires a different approach
For example, since the priority is not efficiency but control, the internet in China is usually slow and has high latency. Moreover, bandwidth in China is also quite expensive. The foregoing makes using CDNs in China essential to guarantee service quality and avoid outages.

Content restrictions

As mentioned in the previous section, a unique aspect of China is its strict monitoring of Internet content, whether written or audiovisual. In this sense, the Great Firewall of China is famous, whose main objective is to impose severe restrictions on content, especially that from the West.

The strong Internet censorship in China imposed by the GFW makes it necessary to address various aspects that can be disconcerting for foreign companies. Among them are:

Regulatory compliance

The challenges to delivering streaming content in China are not limited to the technical field; strict regulations must be followed to the letter. Below we present a list that includes some of said regulations and laws.

As you can see, these laws and regulations have to do with E-commerce, live streaming, and antitrust regulations, but depending on your industry, there can be many more.

Video hosting issues

The challenges outlined above hamper website performance in China, not to mention streaming video. This begs the question, is it better to host video content offshore or onshore? While each case is unique, our GoClickChina experts recommend a hybrid solution: offshore video hosting but with a CDN operating within China. 
This does not mean that you cannot operate a website or eCommerce site within China. According to the content and function of the site, there is an optimal strategy. To delve deeper into these topics, we suggest reading our guide to web hosting in China, where we explain in greater detail the benefits of website hosting in China, as well as Multi-CDN: a solution for CDN outages, where we explore the advantages of multi-CDN solutions, which can be useful for streaming.

Streaming delivery to China

After exploring the challenges of streaming content to China, it is time to start talking about solutions. In this section, we will cover some strategies that may be of interest to you.

Understanding China’s user distribution

As mentioned above, the characteristics of the Chinese communications network are peculiar. One such peculiarity is that only a handful of state-controlled ISPs provide service to more than 90% of users. How does this affect your streaming strategy? Well, more than you think.

Competition among ISPs in China is intense, resulting in some regions having only a single ISP to connect to the Internet. This makes it crucial to understand your target audience since the connection speed and latency differences from one ISP to another can be significant. In other words, the synthetic and manual tests mentioned in the previous section become more important, as you may need to use different optimization strategies from region to region.

Enhancing streaming quality and availability

Streaming content in China without disappointing your audience's expectations is complex but not impossible. At the end of the day, it all comes down to knowing how to get around the speed issue caused by the Great Firewall of China and the problems inherent in the communications infrastructure. An effective way to achieve this goal is to use local video CDNs that allow you to bring your content closer to end users and thus lower latency.
In this order of ideas, you may be interested in reading our articles: Obtaining an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license in China, WebRTC in China, a golden opportunity or a dead end?, and 7 tips to boost your website speed in China.

Ensure content compliance

China is possibly one of the countries with the strongest regulations for content delivery. That said, the correct approach to streaming quality content in China goes beyond the legal, it has to do with common sense and market knowledge. Simply put, you should take a holistic approach that minimizes the chance of being blocked or censored due to your content.
In this sense, we suggest you delve into this topic by reading our article 10 unusually sensitive topics in China and how to talk about them. It would not hurt if you also read our blog post about what's an ICP License and why do you need it.

Recognize regional hijacking behavior

Due to the high bandwidth cost when crossing to another ISP, it is common in China for an ISP to hijack your content. Fortunately, there are laws that protect you against this behavior; however, it is your organization's responsibility to be vigilant and proactive in detecting this problem, which again brings us to the need for constant monitoring of your content.
In this first part, we have made a high-level overview of the challenges and general solutions for streaming delivery to China. However, much more remains to be discussed, particularly methods to secure video streaming in China.

Please stay tuned for our next installment, part 2 of "the best practices for streaming delivery to China."

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