Friday’s concert was the latest effort by WeChat to attract users to their sponsored content Channels through a string of pop concerts that evoke millennial nostalgia. The latest set of Live-stream events are part of WeChat’s attempt to catch up to the country’s two biggest short video platforms, TikTok’s Chinese version Douyin, and Kuaishou.
Tencent is working to increase its short video material on WeChat, which has over 1.29 billion users and promotes user-generated content through its recommendation algorithms. Online concerts featuring major stars, including Taiwanese pop singer Lo Ta-yu, whose event last weekend drew 42 million unique viewers, according to Tencent. This has proven to be a popular strategy to draw users to the app, but one used by the competitors as well. Douyin ran a counter live stream performance by Singaporean pop star Stefanie Sun at the same time as Tencent’s Lo concert in direct competition for eyeballs.
“These two concerts showcased the fierce fight between the two platforms to attract viewers, with Tencent playing offense while Douyin is on defense,” said Zhang Yi, chief executive of iiMedia Research. “Based on the current numbers, WeChat has been gaining momentum.”
According to Tencent, two concerts by Mandopop star Jay Chou aired on its sponsored Channels had 47 million and 25 million viewers, respectively. The audience for the first concert alone would have filled 530 Wembley Stadiums or 3,800 Hong Kong Coliseums. The choice to promote nostalgic icons such as Jay Chou or Backstreet who were popular in the 1990s and 2000s also fits with the user base of WeChat’s short-video section, which is older compared with Douyin and Kuaishou, Zhang said.
Since the mini-programs innovation, Wechat has become the payment and smartphone backbone of Tencent’s media empire. The App has amassed more than a billion users in China and across the globe, with live-streaming e-commerce sales growing steadily from 2021 to date. Monthly active users of WeChat search jumped to 700 million in 2021, up 40% from 500 million the year before.
WeChat has taken a strong initiative to include mini-programs offered by international merchants which have led online commerce transactions to surge 897%. Creating monetization opportunities for Tencent with foreign brands looking to find a foothold in China has flourished. Ford Lincoln, a luxury US carmaker was prominently featured in the Backstreet Live stream – branding that was without coincidence, considering in 2021 Lincoln sold more vehicles in China than it did in the US for the first time.
WeChat has been prominent among the targets of Beijing’s tech crackdown that’s targeted media conglomerates that hold monopolies within the industry. Part of a broader campaign by the Chinese government to dismantle the so-called ‘walled gardens’ of China’s mobile internet that have control over consumer data and profits, these measures will force companies like WeChat to focus on content and user engagement. As Tencent continues to put forward initiatives to round out WeChat’s user base we’ll continue to track their progress as they gain ground on the top spots.