Over the past ten years, the number of people accessing the internet in China has increased five-fold. As you might expect, such strong growth has led to an explosion of online video hosting in China. In 2007, a mere 160 million Chinese had watched videos online. By 2014, however, this number had tripled to 433 million viewers.
Yet for many businesses that create and publish video content, China remains an out of reach market. Even in 2019, the majority of video platforms aren’t able to stream content to Chinese audiences from within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) itself.
In this article, we’ll examine the problem of video hosting in China. First, we’ll discuss why this market is important to business. In addition, we’ll review some of the main challenges for foreign companies seeking to do video hosting in China, and go into detail on options for video hosting sites not blocked in China. Finally, we’ll share three methods to effectively deliver video to a Chinese audience.
Why Video Hosting in China?
China is no longer just an emerging market. In fact, the country now has a population of nearly 1.4 billion and is the world’s largest economy today. In turn, this booming economy has led to a massive tech sector and huge growth in online video in particular.
On a numerical basis, more people watch online video in China than the entire population of the United States. And that’s by a fair margin. On top of this, the audience in China is relatively young, which projects well for future growth. For example, more than half of online video viewers in China are in their teens and 20s.
Countless non-China businesses have good reason to invest in video for Chinese audiences. In particular, there is a massive market for OTT and entertainment. Sports are massive in China. Educational content can find big audiences there as well. Higher education institutions are increasingly offering their courses internationally. Often, these online courses exist as a complete overseas program. For a paying student base, it is imperative a high-quality viewing experience is delivered. And to achieve this high-quality experience, delivery from within mainland China is a must.
If you’re not in the eLearning sector, you may be selling products or services. Or perhaps you’re partnering with Chinese businesses. Nowadays, many companies want to deliver employee or agent training to their operations in China. We’ve also seen an increasing number of companies using video to market to consumers in China.
For all of these reasons and more, video hosting in China is essential to many businesses. Let’s turn now to some of the challenges in delivering video content to viewers in China.
The 3 Challenges to Video Hosting in China
Foreign companies face a number of challenges when streaming live video into China. Let’s look at three such challenges in a bit more detail:
1. Great Firewall and Content Restrictions
The Great Firewall restricts many video hosting solutions from operating in China today. In essence, the Great Firewall refers to China’s internet censorship system. It blocks a large number of international websites, apps, social media and other online resources deemed inappropriate or offensive by authorities.
It’s important to be aware that all external video content sent to China is heavily monitored. This ensures that video content complies with China’s strict rules. For example, popular Western platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo are blocked in China because their content is user-generated. As another example, foreign users inside China are blocked from live streaming completely.
2. Slow Speeds
Beyond direct content blocking, the Great Firewall causes a number of other issues. Many organizations find that when Content Delivery Networks (CDN) stream video to China from outside the mainland, the speed and quality are variable, low, and inconsistent.
CDN’s are meant to reduce loading and buffering by caching content at the server closest to the viewer. This ensures that, wherever viewers are in the world, they have videos delivered from a server near them. This is dependent on “points of presence” (POPs) near the viewer.
For a Chinese viewer, content is often streamed from as far away as Seattle. This leads to significant speed and latency problems. The further you are from the server, the more intermediary points the request and the response have to go through, in order to get from A to B. No matter how fast your ISP advertises your connection speed, these issues are still present.
Naturally, speed is important when delivering video. If it takes a second or more to make a request and receive a response, the likelihood is that your viewers aren’t having a great experience.
3. Bandwidth Costs
Because of technical restrictions, bandwidth in China is still very expensive. It can be as much as 50 times more expensive than in western countries. That’s simply because network building and admin costs are higher in China. Broadcast costs have been amortized over decades in the US, but are being built rapidly from scratch in China. That means higher prices for users.
How to Bypass These Problems and Deliver Video in China
Fortunately, there are methods of bypassing these three challenges—at least potentially. Overall, there are a few main ways to deliver your video in China. The best way is to gain an ICP license; that way, you can legally deliver your own content via local servers and CDN networks.
In practice, it isn’t possible to establish a presence in China without working with a local partner to assist you in gaining the required ICP license. This can be an unpredictable and lengthy process. It requires traveling to China and multiple meetings with local partners and government officials. Admittedly, this process has become smoother in recent years, but the current diplomatic tensions between the US and PRC could change that.
The Best Option for Video Hosting in China
So, what if you’re not ready to fly to China? Likewise, what if you’re not ready to negotiate with local officials, partner with CDNs, and get your own ICP license? Well, then you better choose an online video platform that has already done this.
Here at Dacast, we offer both video hosting and live streaming functionality. Recently, we acquired vzaar. Until we unify the two platforms into one, vzaar is now our advanced video hosting platform. Also, vzaar partners with Verizon Digital Media Services, one of the fastest CDNs on the market, for mainland China delivery.
We have already been through the difficult and often opaque process of gaining approval to deliver content in China. We’ve also done the work of setting up local PoPs and getting their connectivity fully propagated. It’s important to note that not all “global” CDNs are registered and able to deliver content in mainland China. A truly global CDN provider like Dacast’s vzaar platform has the capacity to deliver content beyond the Great Firewall and to anywhere in the world.
The good news? Dacast/vzaar customers can deliver the same high-quality viewing experience to their Chinese viewers as they do to their audiences in other parts of the world. With access to over 60,000 servers across China, we can deliver high-quality video content even to those located away from the populous Eastern seaboard.
Advanced Video Hosting Features
The vzaar by Dacast video hosting platform offers advanced features for publishers or businesses who are focused on video hosting more than live streaming. These features include AES encryption, an advanced bulk uploader with Dropbox integration, and a super-easy video management system.
As we stated in the intro to this article, video hosting in China can be incredibly beneficial to your business. In fact, it can be a make or break issue. And with the problems that can arise with non-China hosting, getting your video on mainland China servers is a massive boon.
We hope that this article has introduced you to some of the ways to get this done. By using a CDN POP in China, vzaar can ensure that latency is much lower than other video hosting providers. In addition, we can guarantee that your videos will be playable and not blocked by the Great Firewall.
“We only see in-China playback expanding and becoming essential for more companies,” says Dacast CSO Adrian Sevitz. “We are excited to have been one of the very first Online Video Platforms to establish in-China playback and gain the experience and economies of scale that our customers are benefiting from today.”
For more information or to sign up for our China video hosting platform: