2008: The Year China Dominated P2P TV

ppstreamJoost has announced that it will discontinue support of its P2P TV application by the end of this week, essentially admitting that distributed content delivery for video streams isn’t worth the effort. But if 2008 taught us anything, then it’s that P2P TV is alive and well — in China, at least.

Western services like Joost may have struggled to convince users to share their bandwidth with other video viewers, but Chinese online video fans don’t seem to have a problem with P2P TV at all. In fact, Chinese P2P grew so big in 2008 that it’s putting the audience numbers of Western online TV offerings to shame.

An article about online video in China in 2008 would not be complete without mentioning the Olympics, so let’s get this out of the way first: The Beijing games were something of a global coming-out party for Chinese P2P TV. Thanks to NBC’s tape delay, an untold number of Western users tried to watch the games live with P2P apps like Sopcast. And Chinese P2P TV providers were able to break some records of their own.

PPLive of Shanghai acquired a license from the Chinese TV network CCTV to broadcast the games live through its P2P service within China, and it saw anywhere between 210,000 and 500,000 users tune in for its live transmission of various Olympic competitions. An impressive 1.6 million concurrent viewers watched the opening ceremony live.  Just as a quick comparison: The BBC clocked only 200,000 concurrent viewers with its iPlayer during the games.

PPLive also made some headlines with its experimental PPVA plug-in, which distributes the Flash web videos of YouTube and other sites via P2P technology. The company told us that PPVA now sees 4 million active viewers per day, which translates to about 2-3 million concurrent viewers.

However, it’s not all rosy for PPLive. The company laid off more than 10 percent of its staff in October in anticipation of the economic slowdown in 2009. PPLive is in the process of raising a third round of funding right now. The company declined to provide further details about the C round, but a Softbank China executive recently confirmed taking part in the round, which is supposed to total $20 million.

Meanwhile, fellow Chinese P2P TV company PPStream announced its third round of financing, also totaling $20 million, earlier this fall. PPStream reached 7 million daily active users by last August and facilitates an astonishing 1 billion video viewing hours per month, according to company information.

And P2P video startup UUSee , which recently announced it was laying off 10 percent of its workforce, is hoping to break even in 2009. It thinks it might even generate some profits, despite the downturn.

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