TikTok takes page from Twitch as battle for creators intensifies

    • TikTok is introducing a monthly live subscription feature as it tries to diversify monetization tools for content creators, according to a company blog post.
    • Live Subscriptions are available on an invite-only basis starting today (May 26) but will expand availability in the months ahead. Perks include badges that subscribers can attach to their profile and upgrade over time, emotes custom-designed by creators for their followers and subscriber-only chats to create a deeper connection between the creator and their community.
    • That sounds a lot like how existing livestreaming platforms — namely Amazon’s Twitch — function. Creators might appreciate TikTok’s promise of “predictable monthly income,” per a promotional video, while a bigger push into livestreaming could open new avenues for brands that are eager to reach a global audience that now tops 1 billion users.

    TikTok made a name on ultra-short, prerecorded videos, but it clearly sees an opportunity in the more free-form realm of livestreaming. Live Subscriptions closely mirrors the model popularized by Twitch and later adopted by Facebook and others: Creators receive monthly payments for producing broadcasts, while subscribers gain access to special perks, like custom emotes to post in the chat feed.

    In terms of what TikTok expects people to tune into, beauty tutorials, recipe prep and gaming tips were cited in the announcement. It’s not hard to imagine the types of sponsorships — or even branded channels — that could follow. TikTok’s ad revenue is forecast by Insider Intelligence to triple this year to $11.64 billion.

    Since the start of the pandemic, TikTok has steadily built out livestreaming tools for creators and brands to keep their audiences entertained. Previous expansion efforts have focused on areas like social commerce as the ByteDance-owned platform moves to grow revenue beyond traditional ads. But commerce growth has slowed for social media operations with the bounce back in brick-and-mortar and as user privacy changes make it harder to target and measure campaigns.

    Creators are the “lifeblood” of TikTok, to quote executives, and keeping them happy and engaged on the app could be more pressing as rivals ramp up their own stake in the creator economy. TikTok’s reputation for overnight virality has at the same time become something of a double-edged sword. Creators who blow up thanks to the algorithmically driven For You page can see their fame fade as quickly as it arrived. Monthly subscriptions promise an aspect of stability that might make creators feel more confident in regularly posting and fostering greater loyalty with their followers.

    Other recent developments have demonstrated TikTok is angling to win more favor with creators. At the NewFronts, the company announced it was exploring its first revenue-sharing program for profiles that meet a certain follower threshold. TikTok also promoted a new premium ad format called Pulse at the May showcase for marketers and media buyers. It places brands around the top 4% of all videos on the app.

    A more concentrated push into livestreaming comes as controversy swirls around the concept, which is harder to moderate than other video formats. The perpetrator of a mass shooting in Buffalo last weekend used Twitch to broadcast his rampage. Though the video was taken down by the platform within minutes, copies quickly proliferated on other sites and stayed up longer.

    In the blog post announcing Live Subscriptions, TikTok emphasized that participants must adhere to its community guidelines, be 18 years of age and have at least 1,000 followers.


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