The growing demand for online courses is showing no signs of slowing down, particularly in China. But the majority of video platforms are unable to stream content to China reliably. This blog will explore how eLearning businesses and higher-education institutions can successfully deliver quality playback via Chinese video hosting.
Table of Contents
- Why Deliver Online Courses to China?
- What Affects Video Playback Quality in China?
- How to Deliver via Chinese Video Hosting
- Option 1: Direct Connection to a China CDN
- Option 2: Chinese Video Hosting Platform
- How to know if a Video Hosting Platform Can Deliver Reliable Video Playback in China?
- How Can vzaar Help?
Why Deliver Online Courses to China?
With the online courses market set to grow by 20% annually, China is poised to become one of the world’s most vibrant online education markets. Growing household spending power, an undersupply of education resources, and the introduction of the two-child policy are all contributing factors.
The opportunities for eLearning businesses in China are significant.
Globally, the number of students enrolled in higher education has more than doubled since the year 2000. Much of that growth has come in China. According to Du Miaomiao, an iResearch analyst based in China: “The advancement of technology is the foundation of the growing online education industry.”
According to Education Technology Insights, there are several benefits of using videos in eLearning and education including:
- Facilitating thinking and problem-solving
- Demonstrating procedures to assist in learning
- Ideal for visual learners
- Easy communication of abstract concepts
- Accessible on multiple devices
- Reduce training cost and time
What Affects Video Playback Quality in China?
Most US or European-based online video hosting platforms struggle to deliver a reliable viewing experience to China. This is due to the difficulties of video hosting in China.
Video content often does not load or buffers regularly resulting in a very poor viewing experience. Later on, we’ll discuss how to bypass these problems. But first, let’s look at the three core issues that affect video playback speeds in China:
1. The Great Firewall
The Great Firewall of China is part of the Chinese government’s control of the internet. First implemented over a decade ago, the Great Firewall is a sophisticated filtering system. Regular checks on external videos sent into China results in extremely slow loading times—particularly on first viewing.
Many Western websites that enjoy a lot of traffic elsewhere are not accessible in China. This includes Twitter and Facebook. Additionally familiar video services such as YouTube and Vimeo are also completely banned in China. Most video platforms simply don’t work in China.
This is because they cannot guarantee that certain types of content – political, religious, military, economic, cultural, moral – will not be present on their networks. In 2017, online video service for three popular Chinese media streaming sites was shut down. At the same time, the government removed foreign TV shows from online platforms.
2. Server Distance
Video hosting in China is extremely challenging because it requires the provider to establish a Chinese presence and acquire government licenses for content delivery. Consequently, the majority of video providers do not serve content using Chinese based servers. Instead the video will most often be streamed from the US.
The further away the viewer is from the server, the more intermediary points the video has to go through. This results in longer response times. The overall experience with a data-hungry format like video will be very poor in China.
3. Slow Broadband Speeds
Internet in China is slow. It ranks 141st in the world. Average speeds are 2.4 Mbps, roughly ten times slower than the average North American or European network. Video delivery demands a lot more data, so it will be the first to suffer from a slow connection.
How to Deliver via Chinese Video Hosting
If you’re a business that is looking to grow your audience in China, you may be put off by the Chinese government’s stranglehold on the internet. However, China is the second largest economy in the world and the adoption of video is exploding. There are many business opportunities.
There are two options for bypassing the Great Firewall and streaming video content in China reliably.
Option 1: Direct Connection to a China CDN
To deliver video content into Mainland China, a specialist content delivery network with infrastructure in China is necessary. So one option for getting your videos viewed beyond the Great Firewall is to manually connect to a China CDN that has ‘Points of Presence’ (POPs) in Mainland China. China CDNs include:
- Kingsoft Cloud
Some CDN providers try to reach China from Hong Kong. But Hong Kong’s network is separate from the rest of the mainland and outside the Great Firewall. This makes performance about 50% slower. A CDN provider that has its infrastructure on the Mainland will typically have existing relationships with Chinese agencies and authorities, as well as in depth knowledge of the country’s unique rules and regulations.
Businesses choosing this route will need to acquire an ICP license. This is an extremely important step as getting the registration right is crucial. Get it wrong and you run the risk of your website being blacklisted, with no way to appeal.
Is This Option Feasible?
While the above is achievable, be aware that the process of establishing a relationship with a China CDN and acquiring an ICP license is a very long and challenging one. Prepare for a lot of back and forth with the Chinese authorities. You will also need to set up a local legal entity or representation by counsel and make a few costly trips to China as signage must be done in person.
From a technology perspective, connecting directly to a China CDN requires substantial in-house video hosting expertise as the CDN provider will not offer video analytics or a HTML5 player – you will need to custom build these.
Option 2: Chinese Video Hosting Platform
Going with a video platform provider is the easier, more cost effective solution to delivering video content into China.
However not all video platforms are equal when it comes to in-China playback. Here’s an overview:
- Vimeo: Totally blocked in China ❌
- JW Player: Totally blocked in China ❌
- Wistia: Partially blocked in China ❌
- Brightcove: Partially accessible in China ❌
- SproutVideo: Partially accessible in China (Hong Kong-based) ❌
- Vzaar: Fully accessible in China ✅
Don’t assume the video strategy that works with the rest of the world also works within China!
How to know if a Chinese video hosting platform can deliver reliable video playback?
First, you need to make sure the vendor is licensed to deliver content in China and has the necessary infrastructure on the Mainland.
The number of POPs the vendor has in Mainland China and where they are located is important to know. You’ll want to know if they are dispersed throughout the country or only concentrated in large areas as this will influence your video strategy.
Something else to consider is the cost of bandwidth. Bandwidth is as much as 50 times more expensive in China than in Western countries. However, not all video platform providers are equal in how much they charge for in-China playback. With economies of scale, some vendors are able to offer cost effective deals.
In summary below is a checklist of requirements a video hosting provider delivering into China should meet:
- Servers should be located inside mainland China, not Hong Kong or other territories
- Multiple servers should cover the region
- Affordable delivery
- Government ICP license acquired
- Content controls to ensure reliability
How can vzaar help?
vzaar has provided in-China video hosting service for more than three years. During this time, we’ve developed a cost-effective way to host video content in China. Future Learn (owned by The Open University) and Gresham College have large user bases in China and use vzaar to deliver their educational content to the country.
Uniquely, we are able to offer industry-leading prices for in-China playback because of our economies of scale. This makes it an affordable option for businesses and educational institutions.
Users of vzaar can deliver the same high quality viewing experience to their Chinese viewers as they do to their audiences in other parts of the world. With access to over 60,000 servers across China, we can deliver high-quality video content even to those students away from the populous Eastern seaboard.
Want to start delivering your online course content to China today? Click the button below and sign up for our free trial (no credit card required)!