EXCLUSIVE: BIGO to double contracts with content creators in India, spend millions

The instant video social media app may end up spending more than $200 million in contractual fees in 2020

Singapore-based social media platform BIGO Live will double its contracts with content creators in 2020, which could amount to at least $200 million, to have a wider footprint in India, the world’s second-largest internet market after China.

By the end of 2020, the company would have 30,000 contracts with 30,000 content creators, Nagesh Banga, Deputy Country Manager of BIGO Service India, said.

“There are already 14,000 content creators receiving contractual fees from us,” said Mike Ong, Vice President — Government Relations of BIGO Technology Pte Ltd. “We signing up content creators every day.”

The instant short-video app allows users to host and upload videos, mostly highlighting mundane everyday life, to reach a wider audience and create a larger network of online friends, called families in the BIGO world.

 EXCLUSIVE: BIGO to double contracts with content creators in India, spend millions

The instant short-video app allows users to upload videos of their everyday life to connect with a larger network of online friends. Image credit: BIGO

Ong hopes that in 2020 some of these creators will springboard from BIGO to bigger screens. “From a nobody, you can become a somebody… Some of them will eventually go to bigger screens,” he said.

BIGO also pays these creators. On average, these content-creators, who sign a contract, make $1,000 a month, most of which is paid by BIGO. Some of the money also comes from the communities that a host builds on the app.

If the entire amount the creators earn has to be paid by BIGO, the company will end up spending about $30 million a month by the end of the year. That is $360 million, annually. If even half of the content is monetised, BIGO is looking at $180-million tab.

“This is not part of the $100 million that we have committed last year,” Ong said.

In 2019, BIGO committed $100 million to build its India operations. Most of the money has gone into hiring and expanding the team from 200 to 1,000 people, setting up offices, getting talent-search agencies on board, among others.

Ong believes once the content creators start making more money, BIGO will not have to pay them hefty amounts to join and create content. BIGO has partnered with 350 talent-search agencies to train content creators on on-screen presentation.

“In the Facebook universe things have to get viral,” said Ong. “Ours is different, it depends on the skills of the host.”

BIGO Live doesn’t have advertisements but has a stream of broadcasters and has applied game mechanics brilliantly. “There are novelty items, a levelling system, live events, gacha boxes, engagement rewards, appointment mechanics and much more. It’s mind-boggling,” writes Akash Senapaty, a product manager worked with companies such as Ibibo, Digital Chocolate and Zynga, in FactorDaily.

But it is difficult to be successful in the digital space, said Ong. Many tried, most of them failed. So, what BIGO’s edge? “People can interact real time, form communities and create relationships… We have disrupted what traditional social media used to do,” said Ong.​

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