When Bigo launched in March last year, the app quickly rose to dominate video live streaming in Southeast Asia. Similar to Periscope, it lets you broadcast instantly from your mobile phone.
Bigo scores especially high in app store rankings that compare how much money people spend in apps. It’s the 5th top-grossing app in Indonesia right now, according to AppAnnie data. There’s obvious viewer appetite for its mix of mundane, funny, and occasionally racy content, and willingness to spend cash in the form of virtual gifts. The company is now reportedly worth US$400 million.
We are aware of the often sexually explicit nature of live streaming. That’s something we want to avoid.
Despite Bigo’s towering presence, a new #startup in Singapore thinks video live streaming can be improved.
Having just closed a US$1.5 million seed round from investors like Singapore’s media giant Mediacorp, the team led by CEO Kenneth Tan launched BeLive today. It’s an app that’s similar to Bigo at first glance, but differs in details.
For all its popularity, Bigo is sometimes portrayed as encouraging sexually explicit behavior. It’s supposedly a way for streamers to entice viewers to spend money on virtual gifts – which means higher monetary rewards for them. In Indonesia, the app almost got itself banned because some streamers were showing too much skin.
“We are aware of the often sexually explicit nature of live streaming. That’s something we absolutely want to avoid,” Kenneth says.
BeLive formed at Singapore’s Mediapreneur incubator, a program run by Mediacorp, with the mission to be a “clean, nurturing, and safe environment” for talented creators to grow their influence.
There are some obvious ways to prevent streamers from crossing the decency line. BeLive sets strict rules and deploys a 24/7 support team to sanction and ban users who break them. A team of curators gives extra exposure within the app only to creators who play by the rules.
But BeLive has two specific ways in which its model sets itself apart from Bigo.
BeLive doesn’t bank too much on virtual gifts to monetize.
First, it offers content creators higher rewards. Streamers can keep a percentage of the value of “virtual gifts” sent to them by their audience.
Typically, live streaming services keep 70 to 80 percent of the value. BeLive only takes a 40 percent cut, which means content creators take home more.
“We are doing this because we believe that the content creators are the lifeblood of any live streaming service, and the platforms should be focused on helping the talents,” says Kenneth.
BeLive also employs professional content producers who help popular channels improve the quality of their streams.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, BeLive doesn’t bank too much on virtual gifts to monetize.
“We are looking at alternative revenue streams beyond virtual gifting so that revenue is not based on explicit content, which garners a lot of gifts,” Kenneth says.
One avenue BeLive is already exploring: sponsorships.
Brands can sponsor streams to promote products. BeLive tested this with gaming company Square Enix, which marketed its new mobile game Final Fantasy Brave Exvius through the app.
Some BeLive streamers have already earned up to US$1,400 in a single week.
Kenneth sees a big opportunity here. He cites a Cisco study by which video streaming will take up a huge chunk of the share of internet traffic in the future, up to 82 percent by 2020.
Advertisers are expected to invest heavily in these new channels, and that’s why BeLive aims to host the type of quality content top brands will want to associate with.
At launch, BeLive sports 1,000 channels. According to Kenneth, some streamers have already earned up to US$1,400 in a single week from virtual gifts and sponsorships.
On average, popular channels get 80 to 150 viewers per stream, he said. Popular streamers average US$214 to US$714 weekly, depending on the quality and frequency of their streams.
“The stars on our platform are varied acts including music, comedy, magic performances, and DJs,” Kenneth says. Chats, where the streamer just talks to the audience in a casual way, are also a popular content form.
Kenneth was previously producer and director with gaming companies Nubee and DeNA, and the rest of the core team at BeLive have launched and maintained apps and services with millions of users during their careers. Their ambition is to do it again with BeLive.
“Singapore is a small but highly connected location. It is the perfect market for our tests,” Ken says. But Singapore is just the start and the team is already laying the groundwork for a roll-out across the region.
Apart from Mediacorp, BeLive secured its seed round from mostly angel investors, along with VC firms Seristine Ventures and Raging Bull.