TikTok made its name by appealing mainly to Generation Zers with its short, binge-worthy videos that users gravitate towards.
But now as the platform looks to expand, TikTok has set its sights on providing long-form content through live streaming – something a growing number of sports-related accounts are taking advantage of.
The latest example of TikTok’s live-streaming interests came during ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary series focusing on the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls. TikTok collaborated with Jordan Brand on “The Encore” after-show. TikTok users were also encouraged to participate in the #Jumpman hashtag challenge.
Hosted by Sportscenter anchor Sage Steele, “The Encore” featured guest stars ranging from NBA player Jayson Tatum and film director Spike Lee to musicians DJ Khaled and Teyana Taylor. The show was live streamed on TikTok after the final three episodes of “The Last Dance,” and quickly helped the Jordan Brand gain exposure on the platform.
Before “The Encore,” the Jordan Brand hadn’t ever posted on TikTok, said Robbie Levin, TikTok manager of media and brand partnerships. Since its debut, the Jordan Brand account has added more than 77,000 followers. On May 4 – the day of “The Encore’s” first live steam, the #jumpman handle had 70 million views; as of June 8, it has more than 2.6 billion.
“I think that really speaks to the power of their brand and the incredible way that they’ve utilized the platform,” Levin said.
The Jordan Brand-TikTok collaboration is the latest example of TikTok turning to live-streaming content during the coronavirus pandemic, Levin said. That effort has been primarily pushed by TikTok’s editorial team, which Levin credits for programming live streams every day in recent months.
Before launching “The Encore,” TikTok and the NFL worked together during the 2020 NFL Draft on the ‘Draft-A-Thon,’ a fundraising campaign for COVID-19 relief efforts. TikTok aired a live streamed simulcast of “Draft-A-Thon-Live,” with the #GoingPro hashtag directing users to the latter’s donation website. The initiative – along with the league’s other fundraising efforts – included influencers like comedian Kevin Hart and video game streamer Ninja.
The NFL and TikTok helped raise $6.6 million during the 2020 NFL Draft, with the league generating more than $100 million in money dedicated to COVID-19 relief efforts. Overall, the NFL’s TikTok live-streams drew as many as 80,000 concurrent viewers to its profile, making its account one of the best-performing platforms in this category.
TikTok’s live-stream potential showed NFL Senior Manager of Social Content AJ Curry that the league’s more than four million TikTok followers would engage in all different forms of content on the platform.
“I think [the livestreams] speak in an interesting way to how invested our fans on the platform were to watching the content that we were putting out,” Curry said. “I think it shows that they want to be tuned in, they liked it, and they were truly engaged because you had that many people watching on the one platform.”
“Bringing that all together really shows a lot about our youth demographic of our fans and shows that as we are investing in them, that they’re responding,” she added.
Another sports brand that worked with Tiktok on live-streaming capabilities was the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Like other sports properties, the governing body used its athletes to help people at home stay fit. On May 22, the USOPC had Colleen Quigley, an American middle-distance Olympic runner, host a live stream on its Team USA TikTok profile. As of June 8, the video has more than 200,200 views and 36,300 likes.
“At the end of the day, what we really want for these live streams is to bring the community together and find ways for people to find comfort when they may be isolated,” Levin said.
While TikTok has been known to inspire trends, Mathew Micheli, co-founder and managing partner of media marketing agency Viral Nation, Inc., thinks that live streaming is one of the times that the platform has had to adopt. Viewership of athletes’ Instagram Lives increased more than six times month-over-month, which was measured by the number of viewers on IG Live broadcasts started by athletes in the last 30 days before April 7 compared to the 30 days before March 8.
Live streaming on social media has risen significantly during the coronavirus period. An Instagram spokesperson told Business Insider in mid-April that the platform had experienced a 70% bump in its IG Live activity. Facebook, which owns Instagram, saw the number of United States users watching live videos on Facebook in late-March rise 50% since January, wrote SearchEngineJournal.
Micheli is not surprised that TikTok joined other social media channels in offering live streams to its users. He is, however, uncertain about the platform’s future with live-streaming. Other platforms in different countries – like ByteDance-owned Douyin, the Chinese equivalent to TikTok – have found much larger success with the trend.
“Live streaming in China is light years ahead of where it is here,” he said. “I’ll never forget. I was in an elevator with a top Chinese gaming creator, a few years ago. I don’t know which app he was live on, but he had a million people watching while he was in the elevator. I know that the market is way bigger [there] than it is here – not just from audience size, but also their usage. If you walk through China, literally everyone is completely engulfed in their phone 24/7. Like you can’t even have a conversation with some of them because their head is so wrapped up in it.”
With digital marketing agency Omnicore finding that 41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24 and 26% between 18 and 24, Micheli also believes that TikTok’s young audience might bring more harm than good in the platform’s long-term investments in the live streaming space.
“I don’t know how successful it’s going to be,” he said. “It’s a young audience, there are young creators, and I think there’s more liability in it than anything else. All it takes is for some of these kids to be on a live stream, and then you see some derogatory remarks in the comments… you don’t want that to happen, and you really don’t want to cause they’re kids.”
“[TikTok] is just joining the trend. Everyone’s trying to be in live streams nowadays. Instagram’s doing well with their IG Live and what they’re doing there. It’s a trend… [TikTok will] gain market share but, if they deviate too much from their core model, I think they’ll probably start weaning off of it.”