Reformatting Chinese dating shows to fit the live-streaming market is a highly profitable business. To the point that it’s outperformed gaming and singing performance streaming in terms of average revenue per paying user (ARPU) on YY, one of the country’s biggest live-streaming services platforms.

YY’s online dating show platform revealed that the average revenue per paying user in the first quarter of 2015 surpassed $100 USD, and surged up to about $130 in the fourth quarter.

It’s a staggering spend, outpacing massive multiplayer online games (MMORPG), the previous top money-maker for many Chinese online services providers. In the fourth quarter of 2015, an average paying user playing one of these games on China’s largest gaming platform, Tencent, spent between $40 to $60, less than half the amount on YY’s dating service.

Source: YY Inc.

Like other non-gaming services hosted by YY, the dating service has been counting on virtual gifts as their primary source of revenue. Launched in November 2013, the dating service generated over $100 million USD in virtual item sales in 2015, a 235% year-over-year increase. In the first quarter of 2016, 283,000 paying accounts purchased $32.8 million worth of virtual gifts on YY’s platform.

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According to YY, the dating service was so far “the most engaging and interactive” among all their social offerings as of the end of 2015.

Based on a popular dating show format in China, YY’s online dating show has a virtual stage that can accommodate up to five male and five female users, with a host moderating each session. YY allows anyone to participate or apply to be a host. Shows on the YY platform are live streamed and multiple sessions can take place at the same time. There are features that allow participants and audiences to interact with each other, such as “Like” functions for each contestant as well as greetings, comments, private messages or gifts.

Interface of YY Dating Show

Interface of YY Dating Show

Anyone in the online ‘show room’ can send virtual gifts to participants or the host. On receiving virtual gifts, dating participants gain experience points and a ‘status’ boost, while the host also takes a revenue cut. To engage users and encourage gift purchases, YY created charts ranking dating participants based on the value of virtual gifts.

The dating show recently rolled out a premium subscription in an attempt to add another monetization channel. Like subscriptions provided by other YY online social services or other Chinese internet companies, this subscription includes a wide range of privileges that can increase the users’ online social status.

YY was one of the first Chinese internet companies to develop this kind of dating show platform. The model has attracted a flock of competitors, including Tencent’s Huayang and BoBo by NetEase.