European linear and streaming-TV shows are embracing the technology that has turned TikTok, the ubiquitous short-form video-sharing smartphone app, into a global phenomenon.
A subsidiary of Chinese tech conglomerate ByteDance Ltd and with a reported 2 billion users worldwide, TikTok is embedded in contemporary culture.
From viewers of Netflix hit drama Bridgerton and a German news program to the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor Italia, TikTok is taking user-generated media-and-entertainment content to a higher level in terms of quality and audience profile.
In response, TikTok is broadening the technology’s use from individuals’ mobile devices to the family-focused big-screen TV set at home. TechMutiny asks European Strategy Manager Edward Lindeman (pictured, below) why.
TechMutiny: Give us examples of TV shows in continental Europe that have successfully used TikTok to promote and/or create content.
Lindeman: One of my favorite examples is the Spanish MasterChef brand embracing trends on the platform and creating content that chimes with the main show, but in a way that feels authentically TikTok. X Factor Italia (pictured, below) is another show using TikTok effectively, mixing behind-the-scenes and contestant-led content with trends and challenges. As well as entertainment shows, it’s great to see news brands showing a different side of their personality on the platform. Germany’s national news outlet Tagesschau has been doing this successfully by creating accessible and engaging content that bridges the gap between an iconic news brand and the TikTok community.
TechMutiny: What is it about the TikTok technology that has made the platform so intuitive for people to use?
Lindeman: Essentially, TikTok is driven by a content graph, not a social graph. It’s an approach that recommends videos based on what – rather than who – you like, meaning anyone can go viral, no matter how many followers you have. The platform is highly dynamic and optimized for discovery, which leads to quality session times and high levels of engagement.
The beauty of TikTok is that while a diverse video tapestry exists on the Discover page, people are also served content curated specifically for them via the For You feed. Tailored to each individual, the feed learns what you enjoy and delivers personalized content that is likely to be of interest, making it a really intuitive experience. In response to the growing popularity of bite-sized educational content on the platform, we’ve also launched #LearnonTikTok to help people access a wealth of learning, hacks and tricks within the app.
We are constantly innovating and refining our technology to give people the best possible entertainment experience on TikTok.
TechMutiny: An example of where TikTok re-boosted the energy of a linear or OTT streaming TV show that might have been flagging.
Lindeman: With a highly engaged community and participation at its core, there’s nowhere quite like TikTok for generating buzz and conversation around cultural topics like TV shows and characters.
When it comes to the traditional TV industry, we’re already seeing pioneering brands use our platform to engage audiences in a live setting, with TikTok a complementary experience to TV rather than a second screen. Regardless of whether you’re watching Bake Off or the Euros in the UK, you can go to TikTok for ‘an extra slice’ reaction – whether it’s the best fan reactions or unique renditions of the content.
The BBC is a great example of a world-renowned TV brand creating native behind-the-scenes TikTok content to promote historic initiatives and lauded shows such as Children in Need and Strictly Come Dancing – helping them reach whole new audiences in the process.
One of my favorite examples of TikTok complementing TV is fans of the regency drama Bridgerton – already Netflix’s most-watched series ever – taking to the platform to reimagine the show with a musical twist. #BridgertonTheMusical (pictured, below) has already clocked up over 17 million views, with TikTokers from all over the world collaborating to create songs and musical pieces to accompany iconic moments from the show.
TechMutiny: How does the use by TV broadcasters contribute to TikTok’s monetization model?
Lindeman: Like with all brands, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to TV broadcasters’ presence on TikTok and we work closely with partners across the industry to help them get the most from the platform, whatever their goals.
We’ve already seen several well-known TV brands and shows, including Prime Video Sport and The Late Late Show in the US boosting fan engagement via organic posting on the platform, while others have leveraged our TikTok for Business solutions. These are designed to give brands and marketers the tools to be creative storytellers and speak to the TikTok community on their own terms.
For example, we’ve previously worked with the UK’s ITV to run a series of sponsored Hashtag Challenges based on themes from Love Island. This allowed people to put their own creative spin on what they had seen on TV and engage with the content in a way that had never been done before. Generally, content tagged with #loveisland has been viewed 1.3 billion times on the platform.
TechMutiny: TikTok is being installed into Smart TV sets in Europe, starting in the UK, France and Germany. How would that work technically compared to the app’s function on a smartphone?
Lindeman: A large part of what people love about TikTok is already part of the TV experience – it is a full-screen, sound-on experience that allows users to feel like they are part of a shared cultural moment. The content is short, snappy and carries the same richness as the entertainment or lifestyle content we are used to seeing on TV screens.
At the same time, TikTok on TV has been specifically created for a home-viewing experience – it’s for families and friends to watch and enjoy together. This means people won’t be able to create content through the TV app like they would via their smartphone. It also includes the For You and Following feed like you’d see on a mobile device, but there is no Discover page. Instead, there are 12 categories of content to choose from, covering everything from animals, to food, to comedy. In terms of formatting, the majority of videos will be vertical, which will allow for captions and comments to be seen easily, while leaving the video player unobstructed.
Available on Samsung and Android TV, viewers can opt to log in to their TikTok account through their TV and will receive their usual For You page content, tailored to them and included as part of the 12 categories. Those who want to browse as a guest will only be served content that has received an extra layer of moderation, making it perfect for families with teens.
TechMutiny: Does this mean the smaller smartphone and its appeal to young consumers are no longer enough for TikTok’s ambitions?
Lindeman: Ultimately, we see TikTok as an entertainment destination that blends together mobile, web, TV and celebrates the resurgence of the big screen. It should be a welcoming and inclusive destination for those who want to use it on-the-go, but also for those who want to enjoy it with their friends and family in a shared setting, especially around bigger cultural moments.
Our mobile format has been the foundation of our success so far and will always be fundamental to the TikTok experience. We’re constantly both surprised and delighted at the huge depth of content that can be created only using a smartphone, our editing tools and effects, and it’s something we will always encourage.
At the same time, we want to appeal to families and friends, who are spending more time together enjoying their favorite TV programs and, of course, TikToks. Seeing everything from sea shanties (pictured, below) and crowdsourced musicals to feta pasta recipes going mainstream thanks to TikTok made us think about how we can amplify that joy and turn it into a format that people can enjoy together on the same screen.
TechMutiny: Will the Smart TV version do more for TV shows integrating TikTok compared to what TV does with TikTok on smartphones now?
Lindeman: Not necessarily – we see the two formats as complementary to one another and working in tandem. TikTok as a whole presents a unique opportunity for the TV industry to do what it does best – creatively tell stories. It enables TV brands to create or repurpose content that speaks to people and drive new kinds of engagement with audiences. This opportunity is there, whether people are enjoying content from their mobile device or with their friends and family on the bigger screen.
We’re pleased with the early adoption that we’ve seen on our TV apps so far and can’t wait to continue evolving the TikTok experience for our community.
TechMutiny: As a brand in an overcrowded international social-media sector, what is TikTok doing to stand out and maintain its relevance? Are there marketing strategies in place?
Lindeman: Our community is what makes TikTok what it is today, and that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Some 100 million people across Europe are propelling unique and inspiring content into memorable cultural moments and movements every day. From beauty and fashion to music and magic, you can find engaging content reflecting every taste and interest.
Alongside TikTok’s full-screen, sound-on format and joyful tone, what makes it unique is that trends that start on the platform definitely don’t stay there. We only need to look as far as the sea shanties phenomenon, which saw a Scottish postman catapulted to global stardom after his musical rendition went viral on TikTok, for evidence of that.