The Rise of Social Live Broadcasting

Cathy Space

Being a little random, being totally unplanned, my career unfolds in a way I never envisioned. Throughout my career, I have worked in various fields including TV broadcasting, Software, Telecom, and Government Advisory. In this essay, I’d like to shed some light on how social live broadcasting works and why it works based on my experiences.

Social live broadcasting is on the rise. Whether you watch football matches, attend music concerts, or are out for sightseeing trips, you will not feel content with posting photos and videos on existing social media platforms anymore. You want more – the power to fully express yourself, to share the excitements and the moments in real-time, and to report your news as it happens. Now, a company based in Beijing, has turned this idea into reality by developing an application called Mi Live. This App has it all: social, mobile, live (i.e, real-time video streaming), and, best of all, it’s free.

In the age of “everyone is media”, a new lifestyle with exciting experiences has come into being, that is, free broadcasting – anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. This new lifestyle has unfolded into vast and diverse markets and is showing promising signs that it will shake up and shape all the existing social media platforms plus TV & broadcasting businesses.

“Social Live Broadcasting” vs “TV Live Broadcasting”

Social live broadcasting uses “smartphones” as opposed to “professional video cameras and TVs” for sending and receiving streaming video in real-time. Instead of using dedicated TV networks, social live broadcasting leverages the internet as its transmission network provided by telecom carriers such as “AT&T and Verizon” in the US, “Telstra and Optus” in Australia, “China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom” in China, and “Airtel and Vodafone” in India.

While a TV broadcasting network is centralised, a social live broadcasting network is distributed in nature – thanks to the Internet. A mobile App such as “Mi live” empowers anyone to broadcast from anywhere – not confined to a particular region or country. In addition, social live broadcasting is interactive – giving people the power and the freedom to comment, to like, to follow, and to tip (sending virtual gifts which can be redeemed later).

A drawback of SLB, however, is that for large and formal events, its broadcasting capabilities are not comparable to TLB in terms of quality and scale. However, this weakness is compensated by the low cost of advertising using SLB apps. You can launch free SLB advertising campaigns rather than paying astronomical TV advertising fees.

The Business Models of Social Live Broadcasting

Below I’d like to show a few directions coupled with examples to illustrate how companies can steer their SLB platforms towards creating, delivering and capturing values.

a) SLB platforms connect “consumers” with “content creators” directly.

Content creators (e.g. journalists, musicians and comedians) can use SLB platforms to broadcast real-time news, interviews, performances and shows – directly to world-wide audiences – and seek feedback via “online chat room style” messaging. If the presentations are very good, the presenters can receive tipping from the audiences around the world. In case you miss a show, don’t worry – it will be stored in the cloud for replay at any time.

In this regard, SLB is fundamentally different from streaming media platforms such as Youtube, Netflix and Spotify whose audiences are connected directly with “content” rather than “content creators”.

b) SLB platforms connect “consumers” with “service providers” directly.

For example, customer service representatives use SLB platforms to connect with customers – “face to face” – for Q&A sessions. Another example is that tour guides use SLB platforms to broadcast sightseeing trips on the fly. Speaking of which, Airbnb and Uber use the same model to connect travellers with landlords and taxi drivers respectively.

c) SLB platforms connect “buyers” with “sellers” directly.

For example, sales and marketing professionals use SLB platforms to illustrate key product features to the public for “direct selling”. Another example is real-time auctions via SLB platforms. Now here is a question: will the success of eBay, Amazon and Alibaba be emulated by a new SLB startup?


In the age of “everyone is media”, social live broadcasting is a new lifestyle, a disruptive paradigm – not the “icing on the cake”. It redefines broadcasting by de-centralisation. It redefines social media by de-virtualisation. It redefines search by de-ranking. It empowers you to learn, to earn, and to succeed by unlocking your potential beyond a string of characters and a set of snapshots, beyond grocery stores and dancing floors, and, just maybe beyond your wildest dreams.

In the near future, talented performers and presenters who leverage SLB platforms, will benefit immensely. More and more the likes of Richard Clayderman and André Rieu will stand out from the crowd. The likes of Chen Daoming (notable Chinese Actor – starred in “Hero” and “The Last Dynasty”) will win more fans. The likes of Jamie Oliver will be discovered. More and more Emily Chang (journalist), Nigella Lawson (journalist), Brian Cox (scientist), Wil Anderson (comedian) and Bear Grylls (adventurer) – talent coupled with “the gift of the gab” – will appear.

To achieve the so called “built to last” mission, SLB companies will need to focus on the vitality of its ecosystem, which relies heavily on the quality of its content – it should be entertaining, educating, and enlightening for society at large. As SLB is new and disruptive, a set of rules, regulations, and policies need to be developed accordingly.

Mi Live’s success is a small testament to China’s fast progress on tech and mobile products. What is more important, however, is that it is a testament to the successful application and leveraging of the “Silicon Valley Model” – potential unlocked by capital. When it comes to investing, I’d like to share the following quote:

“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.” – Warren Buffett

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