TikTok expanding its footprint across smart TV and CTV

TikTok’s meteoric rise has seen the social app go from 55 million monthly active users in January 2018 to more than 1 billion as of September 2021. Facebook remains ahead with about 2.9 billion monthly active users, but the mobile app from Chinese tech firm ByteDance is just getting started. TikTok’s recent expansion plans have taken the short-form video platform directly to the living room through smart TVs and connected TV devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Google TV and other Android TV devices, and Samsung and LG smart TVs.

The TikTok TV app was built specifically with the TV and shared viewing experiences in mind, making it simpler for users to stream videos from the “For You” and “Following” feeds while also highlighting the most liked and viewed videos. It appears that TikTok may be attempting to take a share of the YouTube market, as YouTube viewing on TVs grew to more than 120 million users as of December 2020.

As Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer, wrote in a blog post at the time, this is a big deal because streaming video “gives advertisers more places to reach those customers who have been abandoning TV for streaming platforms, including hard-to-reach viewers.” It’s likely that TikTok’s video time limit expansion to three minutes last July was driven not just by consumer demand but also by TikTok management’s desire to realize additional advertising opportunities – after all, longer videos have a greater chance of engaging viewers for bigger time windows, which increases the value proposition for advertisers.

For the smart TV and CTV device manufacturers, it makes sense to include the TikTok app in their TV/device OS as more and more users gravitate towards the platform. As Vulture entertainingly put it, TikTok is “no longer safe from your parents.” Whether that audience expansion will lead to TikTok losing its “cool factor” for Gen Z remains to be seen, but there’s still one major CTV platform that TikTok has yet to launch on: Apple TV. As of now, the only way to play TikTok content from an Apple TV is through screen mirroring.

This seems like a missed opportunity as Interpret’s VideoWatch reveals that Apple TV owners are the most engaged with TikTok, with one third of Apple TV owners using TikTok weekly, compared to 29% of Roku owners and 28% of Fire TV owners.