UStream Asia to start "tipping" service so viewers can donate to streamers

The Tokyo-based company said "tips" from US$1 to US$12,000 will enable viewers to unlock special streaming content

UStream's Asian venture said Thursday it will start a new service that allows viewers to give their favorite content providers small monetary "tips" during broadcasts, in an effort to bring crowdfunding to the live streaming site.

Japan-based UStream Asia said its "UStream Tip" service, which will launch on Saturday, will let streamers collect optional micropayments from users. The size of a single payment can be set by streamers from ¥100 (US$1.27) to ¥1 million (US$1.27 million), and viewers will have the option of donating from one to 200 payments during live broadcasts.

To generate more tips, the service will let streamers prepare special video content that is released to those who donate, regardless of the amount. Payments can be made using a credit card or a Japanese online payment system called bitcash.

The tip service will initially be limited to corporate users, who must apply to use it prior to their streaming events.

UStream Asia said in a press release that the service is an effort to simplify efforts by streamers on the site to crowdfund, or tap large numbers of viewers for small donations to fund their broadcast efforts. Better funding opportunities increase the overall quality of the largely user-generated content of the site.

In a separate effort, the company has also set up around two dozen UStream Studio locations around Japan. The studios provide professional lighting and equipment for streamers that can't afford to operate their own, and some offer the services free of charge.

The site offers its main service to users for free, and generates its income from advertising, premium user accounts, and providing broadcast services to streamers. Those who broadcast content can earn a portion of the revenue from ads placed in their streams.

UStream Asia will launch the service with an event hosted by Ryuichi Sakamoto, a Japanese composer and musician, that will also feature company CEO Tomotaka Nakagawa.

The company, which opened in 2010 and is based in Tokyo, is a venture of UStream with Japanese Internet and mobile operator Softbank.

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