“‘I’m bored in the house and I’m in the house bored,’” you may whine, lying in your bed scrolling through your TikTok account for the 18th time that day. But wait: if you’re an avid TikToker, I’ve got some news for you.
(This article is just an excuse for the writer to put in TikTok references so that she can sound cool. Is it working?)
TikTok is Coming to the Big Screen
TikTok has made its debut launch on smart TVs in France, Germany, and the UK. Partnering with Samsung Electronics Ltd, this move comes as part of TikTok’s plan to “move into people’s living rooms and diversify its audience.” A version of the TikTok app is now available on Android TV on models produced by Sony, Hisense, TCL, Skyworth, Sharp, Phillips, Xiaomi, Panasonic, and Toshiba.
Announced in December 2020, the TikTok app now comes pre-installed on all new Samsung TVs, and will roll out to users in the UK first. This will make watching viral social media stars even more accessible; this time, you can watch Charli D’Amelio or Addison Rae dance their hearts out on the big screen instead of being limited to your tiny phone screen.
The new app has been specially created to enhance the home-viewing experience, allowing users to view both the “For You” and “Following” feeds, plus the majority of the most popular content on TikTok. They can also watch #LearnOnTikTok videos, which can teach them cooking hacks, fitness tips, and fun facts.
The TikTok app will continue to display videos with a vertical aspect on TV, and videos from a user’s feed in a strip across the top with different categories to check out. Samsung has stated in a news release that users can like, view, and comment on trending videos and block or mark content they are uninterested in.
Users can also have the option to log in to their TikTok account. When logged in, they can access content that is picked from their previous preferences. If not, TikTok will curate videos from twelve of the most popular categories of content in the smartphone app, such as gaming, comedy, food, and animals.
Excitement has been expressed at what is called a bold but risky move for TikTok, which saw a boom in popularity during the lockdown. In combining the “very established behaviour of sitting down” to watch TV and the “new dynamic of discovery and growth and pushing things into the mainstream” that TikTok brings to the table, “it gets really exciting,” says Rich Waterworth, TikTok’s managing director for the UK and Europe.
“You get this combination of niche internet trends which are now mainstream parts of culture, and you enable people to watch them together on the big screen.”
(“Well, why didn’t you ‘Say So’?” you complain, propelling yourself off the bed and onto the couch to scroll through your TikTok account for the 19th time that day to watch Loren Gray’s new video. “That’s ‘My Type’ of news.”)
What’s in It for Everyone?
Industry experts foresee huge potential for TikTok in this new move, which is already experiencing more rapid growth than some of its other competitors. “With TikTok’s shareable content and restricted mode, it’s easy to turn the app into a family viewing experience,” claims Fateha Begum, associate director for connected devices and media at Omdia Research.
Expanding its demographics is exactly TikTok’s motivation for entering the TV scene. With TikTok not only being able to reach a large audience, but also becoming an experience for more than just one person or even the whole family, Waterworth credits TikTok for reflecting “a shared experience”, rather than merely catering to “one particular age group.” By increasing its reach, data, and demographics through being on TV, TikTok can both attract advertisers and stay competitive amongst other leading social platforms.
Just take the viral dance challenge of The Weeknd’s hit song Blinding Lights, for example. TikTok has proven to be a popular platform for people of all ages, and TikTok challenges now frequently involve the whole family. Many cute family videos have been spawned on the platform. After all, what says family bonding like a good ol’ TikTok filming session right?
(“That’s a ‘Vibe’,” you nod along as you watch your siblings attempt to recreate Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage. “At least I won’t be ‘Supalonely’ anymore.”)
Additionally, TikTok creators now have a path to enter the traditional TV and film industries. This would allow TikTok to keep them engaged even as rival companies seek to poach their creator base.
Tiktok’s broader strategy to expand its user base attests to its ambitions. It looks like being the most downloaded app in 2020 isn’t nearly enough; the penetration into the living room beyond the phone screen could be indicative of TikTok’s open expansion into Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, and even BBC and ITV.
But Can I TikTok in Safety?
Though it may sound like you’ve struck the ‘Lottery’ with this new feature on your smart TV, there have been concerns raised over the potential safety risks of moving TikTok content onto TV.
It is possible that TikTok could “[bring] parents closer to their children’s media consumption and [encourage] a proactive conversation about what they watch and why.” Child safety expert Eva Fog Noer says this is a “much-needed thing in many families.”
Yet on the flipside, TikTok could “push kids further into their bedrooms” to watch TikTok alone. Additionally, there is the possibility that parents who are not tech-savvy do not know how to restrict content for their children. While the TikTok app sets its minimum age as 13, parents who may have initially stopped their children from downloading the app now are caught off guard. Many perceive TV as child-friendly, but potentially sensitive TikTok content can now be accessed easier than ever, and parents may not know how to set restrictions.
Watching TikTok videos on a TV screen and not a phone screen makes an even bigger difference. With the newly-added feature of video support, videos are clearer than ever. While good for videos like DIYs and crafts, it may backfire for videos containing mature themes like partial nudity or violence. Even as TikTok regulates its content, it is impossible to catch everything that may end up slipping through the cracks.
Some believe that these concerns are not a major problem. Waterworth points out TikTok’s moderation technology and human employees who are on the hunt to remove videos that violate its terms of service.
Overall, there seems to be much anticipation for TikTok’s move onto TV. Waterworth believes that the fundamental TikTok experience will not be affected, and that it will continue to enthrall hundreds of millions of its regular users.
“What we find with TikTok as an experience and community is it does continue to evolve and change,” said Waterworth. “That’s what makes it interesting and exciting. A new form factor in TV is part of that evolution. We need to keep developing and evolving TikTok to make it as exciting and fulfil the potential of its creator base.”
For more information about TikTok’s move to smart TVs, click here.
Feature Image: XanderSt / Shutterstock.com