Livestreaming has become a booming industry in China, with millions of internet users tuning in to watch their favorite influencers and live show hosts. But a new trend is emerging within this space – the rise of AI influencers. These […]
Livestreaming has become a booming industry in China, with millions of internet users tuning in to watch their favorite influencers and live show hosts. But a new trend is emerging within this space – the rise of AI influencers. These digital clones are being used by influencers and media companies to create content continuously, offering a fresh perspective on the industry. However, while it may enhance the reach and earnings potential for established influencers, it poses a threat to the livelihood of lesser-known hosts.
AI avatars are being employed by Chinese influencers, particularly in the e-commerce sector, to engage and entertain their audience. Channels dedicated to e-commerce through livestreaming feature influencers discussing products, answering viewers’ questions, and promoting brand discounts and sales. The potential of this industry is substantial, with livestreaming hosts projected to generate sales worth 4.9 trillion yuan by 2023, accounting for over 11% of the total e-commerce sector.
To cater to this growing demand for AI avatars, AI startup companies have entered the market, offering digital clones to influencers and media companies. Silicon Intelligence, based in Nanjing, for instance, can generate a basic AI clone for as little as 8,000 yuan, with more complex programming commanding higher prices. With just a one-minute video of an individual, these companies can train virtual TV presenters. Such advancements in AI technology have sparked interest among Chinese youths, with over 60% of surveyed individuals on Weibo expressing interest in becoming influencers or livestream hosts. Paradoxically, these potential candidates are the ones most likely to be replaced by AI robots.
“Smaller-scale livestream hosts may face even more pressure due to their lesser significance to brands,” explains Yaling Jiang, an independent analyst and the founder of the online platform Following the Yuan, which focuses on Chinese consumers. Prominent influencers like Chen rely on their off-stage persona to further boost their status and monetary value. The most challenging part of achieving success as an influencer is being part of the media cycle and excitement, Jiang adds. “AI influencers lack gossip, they don’t appear in reality shows, on the streets, or at stadiums like Taylor Swift does. Without being at the center of public attention, what media value do they possess?”
The use of AI avatars also raises questions about authenticity. In October, the Chinese government released draft guidelines for companies using generative AI technology, stipulating that individuals cloned using AI should provide written consent for the use of their biometric data. However, public labeling of such content remains unclear. Platforms like Douyin (the domestic version of TikTok) have their own requirements, but they are seldom enforced, creating what Jiang describes as “many gray areas.” The global trend of creating virtual TV presenters through advanced technology could soon attract the attention of Chinese regulatory bodies. In the meantime, video platforms continue to showcase clones and videos promoting AI cloning services.
1. What is the trend in China’s livestreaming industry?
The trend in China’s livestreaming industry is the increasing use of digital clones by influencers and livestream hosts to continuously create content for their audience.
2. What role does artificial intelligence play in this industry?
AI startups sell digital avatars to influencers and media companies, enabling them to generate AI clones.
3. How are livestreaming and e-commerce connected in China?
The livestreaming industry has become closely intertwined with the world of e-commerce, with influencers discussing and promoting products, as well as offering discounts and sales for brands.
4. What are the implications of this trend for lesser-known livestream hosts?
AI influencers can jeopardize the job security of lesser-known livestream hosts as media companies increasingly turn to cheaper digital stars.
5. How does the Chinese government plan to regulate the use of generative AI technology?
The Chinese government plans to introduce guidelines that would require written consent for the use of biometric data in AI cloning, but there are still uncertainties regarding the public labeling of such content.