How will TV and streaming fit into TikTok?

The person who brings you video entertainment may be going through a tough time :A looming recession could hurt their ad revenue and consumer spending on subscription TV streaming services. But they also face an enemy unrelated to the economic cycle: TikTok is attracting their attention.

The free video-sharing service owned by the Chinese is sometimes described as a social network, but that description belies what it really is: a powerful entertainment app that keeps viewers glued to a steady stream of video.

And TikTok is getting bigger every day: It now says it has 1 billion monthly usersbut even this figure may underestimate its importance, as TikTok users spend a lot of Time on TikTok – a year ago, The company told advertisers that its users spend nearly 90 minutes a day on the appBy comparison, U.S. TV and streaming viewers spend nearly five hours a day watching their shows and movies — but TV is old and TikTok is can’t attribute Long-term TV viewers lost to new appsbut it’s easy to see that training younger potential viewers to watch traditional TV or even streaming will become more difficult than ever.

“It’s safe to say that TikTok has grown rapidly to be one of those — if not This — the largest social/messaging/video app in the U.S. in terms of time spent,” analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a note last week.

For years, traditional media have been dealing with — and losing out to — competitive threats from the Internet.remember When was the madness at NBC saturday night liveThe “Lazy Sunday” sketch went viral On YouTube back in 2006? For media executives, though, TikTok seems more dangerous and harder to spot, like a nearly submerged iceberg.

If you run a media company, you’ve been telling yourself for years that your network or service has something that people simply won’t find on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit. But TikTok removes most of the arguments: it’s a direct competitor to video eyeballs; it’s more eye-catching than what you’re programming; and, like a slot machine, it assures viewers that with just a swipe, there’s Another dopamine hit.

“Tiktok is very fun and very addictive — far more than anything you see on TV,” said Rich Greenfield, a Wall Street analyst at LightShed.

So what is the big media doing to deal with or respond to the threat of TikTok? As far as I can tell, nothing more than wishing it was a passing fad. But I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything, so I asked around… crickets. I triple-checked by asking Nathanson, who just delved into the impact of TikTok – does he know of any media companies that have responded in an interesting way? His one-word, all-caps answer: “No.”

Give the media companies this, though: Unlike YouTube a generation ago, they’re not trying to sue TikTok for its existence. They’ve realized that anything with that many eyeballs is a good place to advertise.

For now, at least, they don’t have to pay: While TikTok is happy to take their money, it charges up to $3 million for ads at the top of its feed, which it says can reach all users in the U.S. and Canada — ads for the service The business is just starting to grow. Now, it really wants the media company to act like its users — by offering content it can use to entertain other users.

Many of them are willing to do so, said Catherine Halaby, a TikTok executive whose job is to help networks and streamers build their presence on the service. She said her three-person team works with more than 300 accounts, up from 100 a year ago.

“When they came to us, they were 100% on board with the idea that they needed to be on TikTok,” she said. “But there’s a lot of confusion about how to do that.”

Halaby said media companies have several issues to address when putting clips on TikTok: The first is to understand that while TikTok users can actively follow and find creators and videos they like, the vast majority of videos will be served Use TikTok’s vaunted datasets and algorithms. This should pick something individual users like, whether they know they want it or not.

The second is cadence: TikTok users quickly move from one trend to another. That means a company that wants to take advantage of a new viral dance or audio clip — like “wobbly“This song has Turning documentary Luis Theroux into an unlikely star – Means corporate accounts that want to do the same have to do it quickly. “Going forward at this pace is the biggest adjustment,” Halaby said.

She cited Netflix, whose main account has 24 million subscribers, making it the service’s largest streamer to date, and Paramount Pictures, which has Shirtless Beach Soccer Shots from Top Gun: Maverickas an entertainment company that has discovered that TikTok is for entertainment.

However, it is unclear whether the entertainment companies that put free content on TikTok are helping themselves or TikTok. Omar Raja |ESPN’s social media star, said he went out of his way to find something to show TikTokers rather than traditional sports highlights.

“I’m trying to make content that the typical sports audience wouldn’t normally watch,” he said. It seems like a good strategy for making videos that work on TikTok — but it’s hard to see how this would help a media property that caters to the typical sports audience.

A studio executive, who I did not want to be named, bluntly said that TikTok was “very effective” in raising awareness for movies — like TV commercials or billboards — but said TikTok users were unlikely to see the movie’s Clip and go buy tickets. “They just don’t leave,” he said.

On the other hand, TikTok has been a great tool for driving viewers to sign up for the company’s streaming services, such as Shudder or AMC+, said Sylvia George, who oversees performance marketing for AMC Networks. “It hasn’t proven to be this real threat that keeps people away from our platforms,” ​​she said. “In some ways, it’s the opposite.”

There’s one segment of media companies that doesn’t need to sound the alarm on TikTok: Tech companies have long been eyeing TikTok. Now, they’re giving their own TikTok clones (like Facebook and Instagram’s Reels and YouTube’s Shorts) the biggest compliment by copying its format (and using its videos). Facebook will also reportedly revamp its main news feed to make it more TikTok-y.

Tech companies are also telling investors they’re paying attention, and are getting louder on earnings calls, according to Michael Nathanson:

Moffett Nathanson

Meanwhile, Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings been meditating On TikTok’s potential to be an “alternative threat” to his business in a few years. You can see a little bit of Netflix’s TikTok envy surface in its “Quick Laugh” feature, which gives you an endless stream of funny/funny clips from Netflix comedies in its mobile app.

But just seeing a problem doesn’t mean you can fix it, as countless companies have learned in the digital age. And TikTok’s ambitions are growing: At first, you could only place clips that play for a few seconds on the service; now it’s up to 10 minutes. TikTok looks beyond mobileto your connected TV, where You are watching more and more videos. If this works, it will compete more directly with streaming and the web.

For established media companies, I can think of one possible solution: I hope the US government will bail them out.

While the Trump administration is trying to ban TikTok in 2020, or at least force it to sell it to U.S. bidders, Clumsy and transparent chauvinismthere are a lot of thoughtful people who are worried about TikTok’s presence in the US and think it shouldn’t be here.

One argument focuses on the potential for misuse of private datasince Chinese tech companies must ultimately be accountable to the Chinese government; another important point is TikTok can be a very powerful propaganda toolif the Chinese government wants to use it for this reason.

“Donald Trump is right, a Biden administration should finish what he started,” my former colleague Ezra Klein said in a statement. New York Times last month. A jaw-dropping sentence. But once you understand what TikTok is and could be, the mind-blowing idea doesn’t seem so crazy.

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