TikTok recently secured a deal to have its short-form videos distributed to out-of-home (OOH) sites. That, coupled with recent moves on TV, shows that TikTok can find new life beyond smartphone screens. The Drum speaks to Isaac Bess, senior director and global head of distribution partnerships, about its expansion ideals.
Earlier this month TikTok secured a deal with streaming TV firm Atmosphere, helping it tread into the OOH world. Atmosphere will curate tens of thousands of TikToks for screens across 18,000 restaurants, bars, gyms, doctor offices and more, reaching around 20 million unique visitors per month. You can watch one such stream here.
Bess has more plans in the works. After 20 years in the music business as a journalist, record label boss and digital distributor, his experience lands him in a unique role at TikTok where he oversees a broad expansion remit to move levers in business development, strategy, telecoms, infrastructure, product, and trust and safety. He explains: “There is a place for amazing videos from the TikTok community on every screen on the planet.”
A big part of his work is in securing some hundreds of partnerships around the world. He says: “TikTok’s growth since our launch in the summer of 2018 has been dramatic, and I’m elated that we’ve been able to forge deep, meaningful alliances to contribute to that growth.”
It is expected to reach 1.5 billion monthly active users this year. To avoid a plateau, however, it must look beyond previously mined marketing channels. Bess explains: “We believe – and have continued to see – that there is something for everyone on our platform. And yet, while TikTok has matured as a product and our community has grown and diversified, there are still some people in the world who haven’t yet experienced what our platform has to offer.”
Eyes on expansion
When Quibi moved to CTV, we knew it was doomed – Roku later gobbled up its originals. When TikTok made its move on to CTV, the mood was different. People were likely already consuming TikToks on TV via other platforms such as YouTube or perhaps Facebook Watch.
So, Bess says CTV was a “natural first step,” partially because so many of its partners are active there, be it “telcos, OEMs like LG and Samsung, and operating systems like Google TV and Amazon Fire TV.”
TikTok TV came to Europe, the UK, the US and Korea in 2021, and more regions will be activated in 2022. Meanwhile, could TikToks live in the linear TV space? Movistar in Spain is willing to try it, as is the in-flight entertainment experience on AirAsia.
Telecom providers make natural partners too.
“As we’ve grown, and those relationships with Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica and Telenor and many others have burgeoned in turn, we’ve expanded beyond more transactional models to include more innovative concepts.”
The latest fitting benefit is that the promise of bottomless, instant TikToks could theoretically help shift a lot of 5G bundles. At the other end of the scale, there’s benefit too. “In markets where data cost is held a bit more dearly, we partner in the telco space to unlock access in both established and emerging markets.” There are more pilots to come on that front, Bess added.
Meanwhile, getting relevant TikToks to these platforms is front of mind. Bess says: “We take data from each of these pilots and scale them globally.” Context is key... do you personalize the TikToks to the location (restaurant v airline), or do you try to work out the demographics of those most likely to attend these places and tailor to that? The hyper-personalization of the TikTok feed doesn’t appear to land so well when broadcast to wider audiences in public spaces.
Bess explains: “Your For You feed might not resonate with the extended family all gathered around the TV, for example. And that’s OK – we found the right experience to bring that same recommendation magic to bear on an audience that includes spouses, kids, grandparents and more.”
TikTok in general will be more interactive in the future too. The team’s working on configuring the “last-mile” experience for users to “add a layer of richness, encouraging users to take particular action.” This includes engaging with meditation such as the Breathwrk integration, quizzes such the Quizlet integration, or recipes. These features too could be creatively deployed beyond mobile with a bit of imagination.
From Bess’s pitch, it sounds like TikTok is more comfortably wearing the niche once imagined for Quibi. “A curated set of amazing TikTok videos is a great way to spend a couple minutes. Same goes for the dentist’s office, a slow elevator, standing in line at the supermarket – these are all terrific moments and opportunities for short video.”
It’s clear that seeds are being planted to ensure growth. The most pertinent question is what screens won’t you be able to watch TikTok on?