People who offer you video entertainment could be in a difficult time – an impending recession could hurt their advertising revenue and consumer spending on subscription TV streaming services. But they also face an enemy that has nothing to do with the business cycle: TikTok comes to their eyes.
The Chinese-owned free video sharing service is sometimes described as a social network, but that description masks what it really is: a colossally powerful entertainment app that keeps viewers hooked on an endless stream of clips.
And TikTok is getting bigger every day: now it says it has 1 billion monthly users, but even that figure probably underestimates its importance, because TikTok users spend a lot of time on TikTok: a year ago, the company went tell advertisers who their users were. spending almost 90 minutes a day on the app. By contrast, viewers of U.S. television and real-time playback spend nearly five hours a day watching their shows and movies, but television is very old and TikTok is very young. You can’t attribute the loss of long-term TV viewers to a new app, but it’s very easy to see how it will make it harder than ever to train young potential viewers to watch traditional TV or even streaming.
“It simply came to our notice then the – The largest social media / communications / video applications in the United States in terms of time spent, “analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a report last week.
Traditional media have faced and lost for years with the competitive threat of the Internet. Remember the NBC freakout when Saturday night liveDid the “Lazy Sunday” sketch go viral on YouTube in 2006? TikTok, however, seems more dangerous and harder to detect for media executives, like a mostly submerged iceberg.
If you run a media company, you’ve been telling yourself for years that your network or service has things that people just can’t find on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit. But TikTok will gut most of these arguments: it’s a direct competitor to video eyeballs; it’s more compelling than the things you’re programming; and, like a slot machine, it promises viewers that there is always another dopamine blow with just one hand.
“Tiktok is a lot of fun and it’s so addictive, so much more than anything you can see on TV,” says Rich Greenfield, a Wall Street analyst at LightShed.
So what is Big Media doing to counter or respond to the TikTok threat? Nothing but waiting for it to be a fading fashion, from what I can tell. But I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything, so I called and listened … crickets. I checked three times asking Nathanson, who had just delved into the impact of TikTok, did he know that any media company was doing something interesting in response? Your answer in one word and capital letters: “NO”.
However, give this to the media companies: unlike YouTube a generation ago, they are not trying to sue TikTok. And they have realized that anything with so many eyes is a good place to advertise.
Right now, at least they don’t have to pay to do it – while TikTok is happy to take your money, it charges up to $ 3 million for an ad at the top of its feed that says it can reach everyone. its users. in the U.S. and Canada: The service’s advertising business is just beginning to grow. Right now, he really expects media companies to act like his users, giving him content that he can use to entertain other users.
And many of them are ready for it, says Catherine Halaby, a TikTok executive whose job is to help networks and streamers establish a presence on the service. He says his three-person team works with more than 300 accounts, more than 100 a year ago.
“When they come to us, they’re 100 percent committed to the idea that they should be at TikTok,” he says. “But there’s a lot of confusion about how to do it.”
Halaby says media companies need to address a couple of issues when putting their clips on TikTok: the first is to simply understand that while TikTok users can actively follow and search for creators and videos they like, the the vast majority of videos are published. using the TikTok dataset and algorithm. You’re supposed to choose things that an individual user will like, regardless of whether they knew they wanted to.
The second is the pace: TikTok users are moving fast from trend to trend. This means that a company that wants to take advantage of a new viral dance or audio clip, such as the song “Jiggle Jiggle” that has turned documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux into an unlikely star, means that a corporate account that wants to do the same has to do so. fast. “Moving at that speed is the biggest adjustment,” Halaby says.
It cites Netflix, with its 24 million subscribers to its main account, which makes it the biggest streamer on the service, by far, and Paramount Pictures, which maximized its shirtless beach soccer footage Top Gun: Maverickas entertainment companies that have discovered that TikTok is for entertainment.
However, it is unclear whether entertainment companies that post free content to TikTok are helping themselves or TikTok. Omar Raja |an ESPN social media star, says she does her best to find things to show TikTokers that aren’t the best traditional sports.
“I’m trying to make content that regular sports viewers wouldn’t see,” he says. It sounds like a good strategy to make videos that work on TikTok, but it’s harder to understand how this helps a media property that caters to typical sports viewers.
And a studio executive I granted anonymity for speaking frankly says TikTok is “incredibly effective” at raising awareness of a movie, such as a TV commercial or a billboard, but says it’s very TikTok users are unlikely to see a clip for a movie. and then go buy a ticket. “They’re not leaving,” he says.
Sylvia George, who runs performance marketing for AMC Networks, says TikTok has been a great tool for asking viewers to sign up for the company’s streaming services, such as Shudder or AMC. +. “It has not been proven that this is a tangible threat that is driving people away from our platforms,” he says. “In a way it’s just the opposite.”
There is a subset of media companies that do not need a call for attention on TikTok: technology companies have been paying attention to TikTok for a long time. They are now doing the final compliment, copying their format (and using their videos) for their own TikTok clones like Facebook and Instagram Reels and YouTube shorts. It has been reported that Facebook is also ready to renew its main news channel to be more TikTok-y.
Technology companies are also telling investors that they are paying attention, and that more and more people are commenting on this in earnings calls, according to Michael Nathanson:
Meanwhile, Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings has been pondering the potential of TikTok as a “replacement threat” to his business for a couple of years. And you can see a little bit of Netflix’s jealous TikTok surface in its “quick laughs” feature, which gives you an endless stream of funny / funny Netflix comedy clips in your phone app.
But just seeing the problem doesn’t mean you can solve it, as countless companies have learned in the digital age. And TikTok’s huge ambitions are growing: at first, you could only put clips running for a few seconds on the service; it is now up to 10 minutes. TikTok has its eyes set on moving beyond the phone, to your connected TVs, where you’re watching a growing number of videos. If this works, it would compete even more directly with streamers and networks.
I can think of a possible solution for established media companies: wait for the US government to rescue them.
While the Trump administration’s attempt in 2020 to ban TikTok, or at least force it to be sold to a U.S. bidder, was foolish and transparent, there are many thoughtful people who have concerns about the presence of TikTok in the US and they think they shouldn’t. don’t be here
One argument focuses on the potential for private data abuse, as Chinese-owned technology companies have to answer to the Chinese government; another focuses on the fact that TikTok could be an enormously powerful propaganda tool, if the Chinese government wanted to use it for that reason.
“Donald Trump was right and the Biden administration should finish what it started,” my former colleague Ezra Klein wrote in the New York Times last month. A mind-boggling phrase. But once you understand what TikTok is and can be, the mind-boggling ideas don’t seem so wild.