Direct and Indirect Spillovers from Content Providers' Switching: Evidence from Online Livestreaming

Keran Zhao, Yingda Lu, Yuheng Hu, Yili Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Content providers in online social media platforms, particularly livestreaming, often switch content categories. Despite its uniqueness and importance, there is a dearth of academic research examining the unintended effects of providers' content switching. We study the direct and indirect spillover effects of content switching for livestreamers-individuals who broadcast content through livestreaming platforms. We propose a framework based on theories related to viewer flow and network effects to conceptualize the direct and indirect spillover effects of entrant streamers' content switching on the incumbent streamers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, which concerns the negative effects on the incumbent's viewership, we propose two positive spillover effects that are unique to the social media platform setting: (a) the entrant streamers do not just increase competition among streamers, but they also bring their own viewers to the new category, which benefits the incumbent streamers because of a streaming flow effect (direct spillover), and (b) the entrant streamers influence incumbent streamers' viewer size by boosting category visibility through indirect network effects (indirect spillover). We also propose that the two spillover effects are contingent on the size of the entrant streamers' follower base. Based on a unique observational data set from the leading livestreaming platform (, particularly with viewer flow data at the streamer-session level, we first estimate that average content switching is associated with a 1.3% net increase in direct net viewer flow from the entrant to an incumbent. And this direct spillover effect is attenuated by the size of the entrant streamers' follower base. We also estimate that average content switching is associated with a 2.6% net increase in (indirect) net viewer flow from outside categories to an incumbent streamer. And this indirect spillover effect is reinforced by the entrant streamers' follower base size. This study contributes to the emerging literature on the dynamics of content creation on social media platforms in the emerging context of livestreaming. We discuss the managerial implications of this study for streaming strategies and platform management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)847-866
Number of pages20
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences

Cite this