Is online quiz show another economic bubble or opportunity for Chinese tech companies?
 
"Baiwan Yingjia", or "Millions Winner", an online quiz game by live streaming app Huajiao, is seen on a mobile phone in this illustration picture taken January 22, 2018. Photo: Reuters
 
Several Chinese livestream quiz shows announced a temporary suspension ahead of the Spring Festival in mid-February, after they were told by the country’s media and publication regulator not to promote extravagance or sensationalism and instead to encourage healthy and beneficial knowledge. But an online quiz show developed by the Chinese tech giant Baidu announced a comeback last week after being approved by the media watchdog, which some market observers say may signal that the censorship, while being a tricky problem to the rising livestream quiz platforms, doesn’t represent an end of these platforms, though it is uncertain whether the craze at the beginning of the year would be seen again.
 
Using cash prizes to draw millions of contenders to mobile-based online quiz shows is one of the big tech companies’ latest moves to win over more consumers. The concept of the games which tend to follow the same format as quizzes such as HQ Trivia is simple: the app gives users a daily test comprising a series of multiple-choice trivia questions. Players have around 10 seconds to answer each question. If they answer correctly, they would be able to advance to the next round, but if they get a question wrong, they are out. The more questions one answers correctly, the more money one will get. Users could split a bonus between 50,000 yuan and 1 million yuan. Played on smartphones in real time, they are free to enter and anyone can download. 
 
In January, Baidu and NetEase both launched their own online quiz shows, joining Chinese news feed platform Jinri Touriao, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd-owned UCWeb and Prometheus Capital chairman Wang Sicong. 
 
However, the government censorship has been a tricky issue for those platforms. During the past year, China has imposed a broad crackdown on online content from livestreams to social media blogs under a campaign to clear internet environment. 
 
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said in a notice released on February 14 that some quizzes were essentially click-bait, and described the content as “vulgar and tawdry.” It also said those platforms could not promote “mammonism, extravagance, or sensationalism”, nor could they feature excessive marketing during shows.
 
Meanwhile anchors who host the quizzes need to have “proper qualifications and be morally upstanding.”
 
On February 22, the watchdog again released an announcement to reaffirm its determination to regulate the live quiz show industry, saying questions in the shows “must follow the right direction and carry forward the core value of socialism”. 
 
But with the comeback of the quiz show Ji Su Tiao Zhan developed by Baidu, some analysts believe that the government is not trying to put an end to the whole business, and some say the peak of live quiz business is yet to arrive as entertainment is a major trend in the development of the Internet. 
 
“Government censorship on live quiz shows is necessary, otherwise, there could be unhealthy content such as porn or violence showing up during the game,” said Liu Yanfei, an Internet analyst quoted in Economic View, a Chinese news portal under the China News Service. And “once the online quiz industry enters the supervision period, more Internet companies may step into the field, and the online quiz shows could become one of the most important source of users for these companies,” he added. 
 
According to Chen Liteng, an assistant researcher at the China e-Business Research Centre, the live quiz shows can help Internet companies to win over users with “a rather low cost”, but one problem facing these platforms is that if the platforms have sustainable strategies to attract users instead of simply relying on money and celebrity. 
 
In fact, because so many people are playing each quiz, there are often tens or thousands of winners, meaning the payout for each winner could be relatively small. According to Reuters, up to 6 million people at a time log into the games, to answer the questions. 
 
Besides the spread of information through the Internet, companies’ hype and attraction of money prizes, the large user base of livestream platforms which saw a boom in 2016 in China also contributed to the broad popularity of online quiz apps. 
 
According to data released by the China Internet Network Information Center, the number of China’s livestream users had reached 420 million as of December 2017. 
 
The business mode of live quiz shows is simple: burning money plus product placements, according to Gao Peng, an Internet expert. But if they want to live longer, good content and industrial chain are two things that they have to take into consideration.
 

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