TikTok may be one of the foremost social media platforms in the world, but the service still remains relatively opaque for much of the international TV industry. At Singapore’s Asia TV Forum, TikTok’s global head of sports and gaming Harish Sarma tried to connect the dots between the platform’s audience and how producers and distributors might go about reaching them, emphasizing engagement over strict monetization.
In his Wednesday keynote — one of the most anticipated sessions of ATF this year — Sarma shared that the platform’s goals of engagement, awareness and serving as a discovery engine were pillars that “frankly, a lot of the folks in this room can benefit from.”
“Instead of thinking of the world of TikTok as fairly binary, as whether you’re a buyer or a seller of content, think about us in the context of, we are the catalyst that is going to not only prop up the value of your IP, but in many ways, we’re going to allow those who purchased your IP to now really get the word out and build true brand affinity with communities,” said Sarma.
The New York-based executive detailed subcultures such as cosplay and anime that exist within the primary entertainment vertical on the platform (one of five that also includes sports, lifestyle and education, music and news) that are “extremely vibrant.”
“If your content aligns with any of these subverticals, all of a sudden you have an active community that is just waiting to learn, ‘What are the things I should be paying attention to?’” added Sarma.
Notably, the exec suggested that, rather than speculating whether TikTok is going to “jump into” original or scripted content, “I would implore you to think even bigger than that,” he said.
“Could TikTok be the engine that takes my IP not necessarily from obscurity, but from a very limited distribution to awareness at a global level,” says Sarma. “Because then, when you show up at ATF, not only does everyone know your IP already, but they’re clamouring to get a meeting with you, because they’ve already heard about your content, or they know of trends that have kicked off around your content.”
When pressed by moderator Justin Ang of Singapore’s IMDA about monetization, Sarma admitted that this was the top priority for TikTok going forward.
“The goal is to define driving utility not just for the consumer but the creator. That’s every aspect of creative ecosystem,” said Sarma, noting that the company has been building out its creator ecosystem around the Creator Marketplace.
This, he explained, is the meeting ground between brands “that want to spend on TikTok but want to associate with creators that have a niche focus or an actual specialization.”
“And those creators are also looking to work with brands. So if you put those two things together, we actually want to facilitate those connections,” said Sarma.
The Creator Marketplace is being “scaled up quietly” with more announcements expect in the coming year, confirmed the executive.
The Asia TV Forum runs from Dec. 7 to 9 at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands.