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 the Chinese market is important to businesses. Then, 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.
This post has been updated to reflect the most accurate information about China video hosting available as of September 2020.
Table of Contents
- What’s the Value of Video Hosting in China?
- The 3 Challenges to Video Hosting in China
- Bypassing the Great Firewall with an ICP License
- Video Hosting Sites Not Blocked in China
- Using Dacast for Video Hosting in China
What’s the Value of Video Hosting in China?
On a numerical basis, more people watch online video in China than the entire population of the United States 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.
For one, sports are massive in China. Educational content also presents the opportunity for a large audience in China since higher education institutions are increasingly offering their courses internationally.
Often, these online courses exist as a complete overseas program. For a paying student base, a high-quality viewing experience must be delivered. To achieve this high-quality experience, delivery from within mainland China is a must.
If you’re not in the Chinese e-learning sector, you may be selling products or services, or perhaps you’re partnering with Chinese businesses. These days, 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. However, there are several 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. The greatest challenge is the Great Firewall, which is controlled by the Chinese government’s censorship system and makes it difficult for people in China to stream unapproved content.
Additionally, broadcasters are forced to fight against slow speeds and high bandwidth costs when streaming to 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 broadcasters find that even when content delivery networks (CDN) stream video to China from outside the mainland, the speed and quality are 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 reach the viewer. 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. The reason for this is 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, which leads to higher prices for users.
Bypassing the Great Firewall with an ICP License
Fortunately, there are methods for bypassing these three challenges. There are a few main ways to deliver your video in China and they all involve obtaining an ICP license.
An ICP license—which is short for an “Internet Content Provider” license—is a special permit granted by the Chinese government which allows websites to bypass the Great Firewall. These permits are issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
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.
Video Hosting Sites Not Blocked in China
The three online video platforms that have China video hosting capabilities include:
- Dacast: ICP License 19031887
- IBM Cloud Video
These three options have gained the appropriate clearance from the Chinese government.
Platforms that Do NOT Offer China Delivery
Some of the top streaming platforms on the market that do not have the appropriate clearance for China video hosting include:
- JW Player
Using Dacast for Video Hosting in China
As we mentioned, Dacast is on the list of very few online video platforms that support video hosting in China.
We have already been through the difficult process of gaining approval to deliver content in China and we have an ICP license from the Chinese government. 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. Truly global CDN providers, like the ones that Dacast use, can deliver content beyond the Great Firewall and to anywhere in the world.
The good news? Dacast 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.
Video hosting in China can be incredibly beneficial to your business, especially if you’re trying to reach viewers within the Great Firewall. With the problems that can arise with non-China hosting, getting your video on mainland China servers is very helpful.
We hope that this article has helped familiarize you with some of the ways to stream to viewers within China.
In addition to video hosting in China, the Dacast platform offers advanced features for publishers or businesses that 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.
Try these features risk-free in our 30-day free trial. All you have to do is sign up today to get started. Just click the link below to get free streaming for 30 days (no credit card required).
Finally, if you have further questions or thoughts, feel free to leave us a comment below. Are you looking for more live streaming tips, industry networking opportunities, and exclusive offers? If so, you can also join our LinkedIn group.
Thanks for reading, and happy broadcasting!