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Booming cyberstar economy might hit $8.7b in 2016
Last Updated: 2016-07-01 09:54 | Ecns.cn
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Papi Jiang, or Jiang Yilei, one of the hottest web celebrities in China today. [Photo/Weibo]

China's Internet celebrities are estimated to create a whopping 58 billion yuan ($8.7 billion) market in 2016, far surpassing the 44 billion yuan in box office sales generated last year, according to an industry report.

The report by iResearch Consulting Group and Sina Weibo, China's most popular microblogging platform, was released at a forum in Shanghai, co-organized by Weibo and telecom giant Huawei .

The top 10 Weibo celebrities now have a combined 40 million followers. One of the most famous online figures, Papi Jiang, already signed a contract for video ads worth a staggering $3.4 million.

Among 36,000 who have reached celebrity status on the Internet, 74 percent are women and 87.8 percent are between 17 to 33 years old, while 89 percent have a college education. Followers are also getting younger and better educated, with 77.8 percent in the 17-to-33 age group and 75 percent with a higher education.

The report also showed regions with a better-developed economy produce more cyberstars, with Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang leading the rankings.

China's booming cyberstar economy has gone through three stages -- the first based on text, then text and images, and now video thanks to the availability of broadband networks.

Social networking platforms, including Weibo and mobile app WeChat, proved to be the best tools for cyberstars to magnify the power of communication, making it possible to create an industry that combines advertisements, e-commerce and fans.

Agents and investment institutions are now flooding the sector, causing additional changes to content and platforms in the world's second-largest economy, the report said.

A number of Internet gurus, including Lei Jun, investor and founder of tech firm Xiaomi, Zhou Hongyi, CEO of Qihoo 360 Technology, and China's richest man Wang Jianlin have all directly supported live video-streaming websites, a strong indication of the growing interest from capital investment.

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