Can TikTok Make the Leap From Phones to TV Screens?

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The social app’s content has big potential for advertising and content creator growth, streaming provider Atmosphere believes

As TikTok continues to gain momentum, the social media platform is beginning to experiment with bringing its content to screens bigger than the one you hold in your hand. While still early, experts are viewing the company’s move as beneficial for advertising and providing a new outlet for content creators.

In January, streaming provider Atmosphere partnered with TikTok to start delivering TV content to businesses in the U.S. The channel is built specifically to play in businesses from gyms to restaurants and serves up popular content on TikTok curated by a content team whose job is to sift through tens of thousands of hours of video content to re-create a viewer experience much like the popular app’s mobile version.

While it’s too early to get engagement data on the program, Atmosphere co-founder and CEO Leo Resig said its enterprise customers are excited about adding this to their TV streaming. The content on Atmosphere’s platform is designed for viewers in public spaces where audio may be turned off, which seems to be a good fit especially for the short-form clips on TikTok.

“It’s one of the reasons that all of the content on the platform is audio-optional and why we focus on snackable, short-form content, at which the TikTok community excels,” Resig told TheWrap. “The length of the content is important, but it’s also content that creates a more energizing and engaging environment.”

As the fastest-growing social app, especially for Gen Z, advertisers and consumers are increasingly drawn to creator content that has improved a lot in quality over the years – and oftentimes this content is cheaper to produce than traditional TV ads. Adam Rivietz, co-founder of creator marketing platform #paid, explains that their firm’s study with Nielsen showed people prefer creator content over professional content packaged for TV.

“Consumers found creator content more visually appealing, high quality, equal in terms of professionalism, and more tasteful than a TV spot,” Rivietz said. “Social media is a place to test content ideas and get real-time feedback. Whatever content performs best on social media should be repurposed for television since one audience has already validated it.”

There’s also the question of attention span, which seems to be getting shorter as distractions increase, making TikTok’s short videos appealing to advertisers. A Microsoft study from recent years found that people typically lose concentration after about 8 seconds – and researchers said the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds since 2000.

“Nobody is watching 30- to 60-second TV ads,” Rivietz added. “Brands need to show their logo or product in the first 3 seconds and drive a message home in less than 10. This is happening on TikTok and needs to translate to TV if marketers want to be successful in 2022.”

Investing in content on TV also allows TikTok to continue expanding its reach to a new potential audience. The platform hit 1 billion monthly users last year, and much of its anticipated growth among the Gen Z users in upcoming years – a battle that Instagram and Facebook have been losing. With the Atmosphere channel, TikTok is able to push its content into more than 20,000 businesses, including bars, doctors offices, hotels and other public venues. Atmosphere said its platform has a global footprint with more than 20 million unique monthly visitors.

Although largely favored by Gen Z, TikTok has grown in popularity with older users too, especially since the pandemic. In March 2021, the platform’s reach among users aged 35 to 44 doubled to around 18% when compared to the previous year, according to Comscore. Those aged 45 to 54 accounted for 14.6% of total unique visitors during that period, and those 65 and over accounted for 3.5%, tripled from 2020.

But some are skeptical that older users will be similarly drawn to a TikTok-dedicated TV channel. “I don’t think this is going to work,” Jordan McAuley, public relations expert, said. “Most of TikTok’s user base is under 29 years old, and they don’t watch regular TV. Adults who watch television are not going to watch TikTok over long-form movies and television shows. Good luck getting them to switch to TikTok from ‘Succession,’ ‘ Ozark’ or ‘Yellowstone.’”

Even so, Hollywood has turned to platforms like TikTok and YouTube to find emerging stars and creators, as more influencers make their name and money on these apps. Platforms from Facebook to Snap have been shelling out millions in an effort to win over creators with their incentive programs. Last August, YouTube said it had paid out some $30 billion to creators in the last three years, and TikTok started a $1 billion creator fund in the US spread over three years, with plans to likely double that globally, the company said.

He's All That
TikTok influencer Addison Rae stars in “He’s All That” on Netflix. (Netflix)

“It’s clear that the major media companies are looking to these spaces for talent,” Anjali Midha, CEO and co-founder of audience analytics company Diesel Labs, said. “There are some great examples of stars coming out of TikTok and finding solid footing within Hollywood. … Leveraging TikTok and YouTube as places to source talent that come with already established audience bases is something we’re likely to see more of in the coming year.”

TikTok influencer Addison Rae recently starred in the Netflix film “He’s All That” and then signed a multipicture deal with the streamer last September. Sisters Charli and Dixie D’Amelio also launched “The D’Amelio Show” with Hulu last year. Just this month, Netflix released new reality show “Hype House,” featuring a group of young affluent TikTok influencers living together and creating content all day.

Another advantage of a TikTok channel is being able to appeal to content creators seeking a greater return. Creators working directly with social media and brands for the big screen are likely to make more money than working with legacy studios. They can earn more by launching their own products and investing in social media, according to Ricky Ray Butler, CEO at influencer marketing agency Ben Group.

“They have so much clout they can launch a product and make hundreds of thousands, so it’s smart for them to be everywhere,” Butler said. “It’s not about what screen you use, it’s about the content. This is another way for creators and artists to make content that can be looked at differently and designed differently for different screens.”