TikTok’s TV Expansion Is Well Timed

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Yinchen Niu

Despite experiencing some of the harshest scrutiny a tech company has faced from the U.S. government in 2020, TikTok is focused on growth.

Chalk up TikTok’s ability to not mope amid its ban saga to its global ambitions.

For example, Samsung on Monday announced TikTok was launching on its smart TVs in Europe, starting first in the U.K. The TikTok-Samsung TV experience mimics aspects of TikTok mobile, allowing users to like and comment on videos as well as view “For You” and “Following” feeds.

A TikTok account isn’t needed to watch TikTok on Samsung smart TVs, which will now come pre-installed with the short-form video app. Videos on the TikTok-Samsung TV platform will also be displayed vertically.

The partnership marks an opportunity for TikTok to continue a growth streak that doesn’t seem to have been significantly hampered by government intervention.

TikTok was the most downloaded app globally of 2020 when measured by combined iOS and Android downloads, according to App Annie.

And 69% of surveyed U.S. teens said they used TikTok monthly in a fall survey conducted (from late August to late September) by Piper Sandler, a figure up from the 62% of teens who said the same thing in the Spring. Murmurs of a potential U.S. TikTok ban had already surfaced in early July, but that did nothing to scotch interest in the app among its target audience.

The expansion to TV sets could lead to more time spent on TikTok as U.K. consumers have spent more time viewing TV due to the coronavirus outbreak. Viewership of SVODs and non-broadcast content was 71% higher than the year before even after lockdowns eased toward the end of June, according to Ofcom.

But perhaps more significant is what the Samsung integration hints at for the future of TikTok’s growth strategy.

If viewership of TikTok on Samsung smart TVs takes off quickly, TikTok could be encouraged to push users to start uploading longer videos, which a TV viewer is likely more open to viewing than a mobile TikTok viewer on the go.

Longer videos would open greater TikTok advertising opportunities, which the company has increasingly prioritized as its parent ByteDance has sought new funding. In July, TikTok officially opened its self-serve ad platform, which had been testing in earlier months.

Keep in mind TikTok already started testing allowing some users to upload three-minute videos earlier this month, a shift from the normal one-minute video length.

TikTok also launched on Amazon Fire TV devices in August, although TikTok on Fire TV is more focused on curated content and is further from the mobile app than what Samsung and TikTok are partnering to offer.

Social competitors will be keen to watch for the market reception of TikTok on Samsung as the short-form video market heats up. On Monday, short-form video app Dubsmash, which generates 1 billion monthly views, was acquired by Reddit for an undisclosed amount.