TikTok’s Transition to TV
TikTok, the popular short video app owned by ByteDance, has recently been added to Amazon’s Fire TV across the US and Canada. It is a big step in expanding the app’s outreach beyond tech-savvy millennial and Gen-Z kids to an older generation through traditional TV.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the app’s over one billion monthly users will be able to connect through the app without huddling around a small phone screen. This style of TikTok is an opportunity to appeal to more families that might have previously shied away from using the app. You can download the app through the Fire TV Appstore, log in to an account and browse like you would on your phone.
This, however, comes at a cost with a few key departures from the essence of TikTok. The Wall Street Journal also emphasizes that Tiktok is not intrinsically optimized to translate onto larger TV screens. The app as we know it today is designed especially for vertical mobile users while TV’s default is horizontal which makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience given that entire portions of the screen are cut off on both sides.
Furthermore, scrolling is not done as easily. On a TV you would have to use your remote control to move on to the next short video. This can discourage the use of the app for long periods, a contrast from the addictive nature of the For You Page on the traditional mobile format. This is a cause of concern as TikTok users spend approximately one hour a day scrolling through the app and could be turned off from such incessant scrolling when using a remote control.
More caveats include the fact that the most important aspect of TikTok, the personalized For You Page that is carefully crafted to each users’ taste and preferences, is lost once it hits the TV because of its communal features. It is less likely that all users of a household are watching and liking the same type of content. Another limitation of this TV transition is the inability to comment from the big screen. This proves to be a big issue as comments are often as or more funny and entertaining than the content of the short video itself. Losing this feature is losing an essential part of the TikTok experience.
TikTok’s new TV introduction coincides with Bytedance’s chair, Zhang Yiming, stepping down from his position as chief executive as China’s government takes more control over the Chinese tech sector. With both advancement and hindrances in TikTok’s history, it seems that its takeover of TV will either make for a strategic or unsuccessful business venture in the face of turbulent times within the company.