TikTok is one of those “overnight sensations that took years” that you hear about in Hollywood and in Tech. George Clooney is a great example as he toiled for years in Hollywood before he broke out in the hit TV show, E.R., in the 1990’s.  – they have been popular in China (operated as Douyin) for over five years, but have only been “discovered” in the U.S. in the last year or two – partly due to ex-President Donald Trump’s threats to ban TikTok in the U.S.

Recent data from Sensor Tower, a well regarded global app intelligence and data company, was reported by , saying TikTok was the most downloaded non-gaming app in the world for July 2021, with more than 63 million downloads globally. TikTok has also had spectacular results with huge numbers of downloads in many countries over its short life. It is estimated to exceed over 1B users along with its sister app in China, Douyin. TikTok and Douyin held the same top status throughout 2020 worldwide too.

Both Douyin and TikTok are owned by the very large Chinese interactive media and entertainment company, ByteDance, which has been rumored to be heading toward a public IPO sooner than later. Currently the Chinese government has been challenging some of the biggest Chinese digital companies regarding public offerings, M&A and

cash movement, etc. ByteDance, Tencent, Didi, Alibaba and others are all good examples of companies that have to be very careful as they maintain their relationship with the Chinese government, operating as large International enterprises.

According to the Sensor Tower data, the greatest number of installations came from Douyin in China (15 percent ), followed by the United States, at 9 percent. Also in 2020 and during the first half of 2021, the app is reported to be at very top of the revenue rankings.

Certainly in the U.S., and probably around the world, there is a huge amount of room for TikTok to move into the realm of the few, huge, gigantic monetizers of Internet traffic, namely Facebook/Instagram, Amazon  -0.6% and Google.

TikTok is not only growing rapidly but also has very satisfied and engaged users. The app has great tools for easily sharing creations and content across numerous digital platforms – even email for old people! The engagement numbers are astounding with many, many viewers spending over an hour a day watching TikTok.

Everyone says the secret sauce for TikTok is their “algo” – the algorithm that the TikTok computers are constantly analyzing and learning from (machine learning) to determine what content to offer you, what content will engage you, what content will you share, and what content is monetizable or leads to monetizaeble actions?

When Quibi was launched with huge capital and big Hollywood names, few folks were even talking about TikTok, and today Quibi is a failed interactive media brand that burned through over $1B dollars.  and why TikTok was going to grow dramatically in a Forbes.com piece posted almost a year ago. Quibi was expensive, the content was too long, the distribution was too limited, and perhaps, maybe, the Hollywood guys aren’t really up to speed with the tastes of the Millennials and Gen Z that drive our society and our economy. Perhaps they didn’t “get it”.

The numbers are clear, TikTok is “getting it” and, TikTok is “killing it,” in the more common vernacular of today’s society. TikTok is short, “non-professional” content, ridiculed by some, yet adored by hundreds of millions. I bet TikTok continues to accelerate its success worldwide.

TikTok, the Western social video app, from ByteDance, a major Chinese interactive entertainment company, has become a cause celebre with Donald Trump on one side wanting to ban TikTok, and others contending it is a restraint of free speech and an illegal action by the Trump Administration.

TikTok is the up and coming mobile video app that is growing rapidly in the U.S. and is hugely popular in India and other countries around the world. TikTok has also been recently banned by the Indian Government, in part due to the border tension between China and India.

Due to the Trump Administration’s action against TikTok, ByteDance has been in discussions with Microsoft, Oracle and others, such as Walmart, who has confirmed they are discussing the deal with Microsoft.

TikTok is all about super short video. Another major competitor in the short video digital world is Quibi which launched earlier this year, at a price tag of $4.99 or $7.99 a month, with or without ads respectively.

Quibi received close to $2 billion in financial backing, and was founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg who is Chairman. Katzenberg is well-known in Hollywood as an entertainment and creative success, having co-founded DreamWorks SKG, as well as being the past CEO of DreamWorks Animation. Katzenberg was Chairman of Disney Studios for 10 very successful years before DreamWorks. Katzenberg

recruited Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay EBAY -5.3% and former Republican nominee for Governor of California in 2010, to be the CEO of Quibi.

TikTok and Quibi are both short-form, but otherwise these two companies are wildly different. Perhaps the most significant difference is how Quibi and TikTok differently define “short”. Let’s take a look at the key differences between TikTok and Quibi and consider how these differences have led to big success for TikTok, and failing fortunes for Quibi, which is rumored to be considering eliminating their subscription fee and becoming free.

Short-form: While Qubi defines short-form content as 10 minutes, about 100 million Americans have demonstrated with their deep engagement with TikTok, that they prefer truly short videos – no longer than 1 minute and often as short as 15 seconds. In today’s world with multi-tasking run rampant, multiple devices grabbing our attention, and the fast-paced tempo and “click-bait” of digital content, 10 minutes is not really short. Maybe for a senior citizen, but not for a member of the Z or Millennial Generations. Under the category of short hits of digital entertainment, TikTok is besting Quibi.

Pricing: Consumers have shown a deep affection for long-form TV and film content, including a willingness to pay for that content on services like Netflix NFLX -5% and Disney Plus, as well as the majority of American households that subscribe to traditional pay cable and satellite TV. But the advertising supported video content services, like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok and others show the great affection of consumers for free content. In the realm of pricing, TikTok’s free content is beating out Quibi’s paid content.

Virality: TikTok makes it super easy to share a video you like (or made) with others by email, posting to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, as well as Whats App, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and text messaging. Yet, Quibi has spurned viral sharing opportunities. Similarly you can readily find TikTok content on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other services where TikTok compilations have become top performing videos. Quibi’s content distribution strategy is focused on the Quibi app.

Authenticity vs. Stars: In many cases Quibi has followed the paradigm of traditional Hollywood with big budgets (by digital terms), known actors and famous writers. TikTok’s content is authentic,

refreshing, and relatable because it is created by your relative, your neighbor, or your buddies at school and work. TikTok takes the day for authentic content that appeals to Every-Person (the more modern version of the Everyman concept). Plus, TikTok content is free to make (for TikTok) while Quibi has expensive writing and production budgets for their content.

Additionally, TikTok content has something for everyone from travel and cooking to life hacks, workout tips, and of course, the famous TikTok challenges and dances. A unique type of content has also risen up on TikTok, what I call “intergenerational content”. Perhaps it is driven by the at-home scenario being lived by some many families during the Covid pandemic.

But whatever the reason, TikTok is a great place to find siblings goofing off together, kids and their parents acting out short-skits and interactions, and even a popular Grandma cooking with her grandson. Most TikTok accounts are registered to teens and young adults, but Mom and Dad, plus others from the older generations are hanging out on TikTok too.

When you consider these factors it is not surprising to see that TikTok is riding a tidal wave of consumer appeal, while Quibi is floundering.


In the midst of a major economic recession, disputes in Washington over further relief payments to Americans, issues of racial injustice, and other important national and international issues, a huge number of Americans (reportedly 100 million) are now faced with a new challenge – the possible banning of Tik Tok which has become very popular in the U.S. over the last year, particularly in the 13 to 34 age groups. Forbes senior editor, Abram Brown, wrote an interesting article recently about the possible motivations for President Trump to want to ban Tik Tok.

Most of the discussion about Tik Tok lately has been around the fear of possible Chinese use of Tik Tok for espionage or privacy/security infringements. Tik Tok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese-based company.

No one seems to be asking the question, who is going to be most affected by the threatened shutdown of Tik Tok in the U.S., which, of course, are the users of Tik Tok in America. Tik Tok works very hard to support the creators on the app and have launched a $200 million program to fund work by Tik Tok creators. This announcement was received positively by creators and the whole industry that has grown up around them, often called the Creator Economy. Avi Gandhi, Executive Vice President at Wheelhouse, an agency that works closely with influencers/creators said, “We work with a number of creators with major presences on Tik Tok. What we consistently see and hear is that they’re eager to do more for their fans, but can be bottlenecked by resources.”

I recently conducted a national online survey where we see that for the purpose of viewing free digital video, across the entire U.S. adult population, YouTube and Facebook dominate. But when you look at the population of those 18 to 34 years old, you see that Tik Tok has become very popular with a usage number equal to Snapchat, below Instagram, and ahead of Twitter.

Instagram is still the “one to beat” in the 18-34 year old group of video viewers online. And now Instagram is releasing Reels, a direct competitor to TikTok. Instagram is owned by Facebook, who continues to have the highest number of consumers in the 18 to 34 year old age group of any digital service presenting free online video. There are other TikTok competitors, such as Triller who recently raised $200 million and is supported by a number of the major music companies. Triller has reached the top of the App Storein many countries recently. Many TikTok creators have alerted their viewers on TikTok to the possible ban of TikTok in the U.S. and referred their viewers to their other social media outlets, such as Instagram, YouTube, Triller and others.

Because Reel is part of the Instagram app and because of the reach of their parent company, Facebook, it is evident, and already happening, that many consumers are going to download Reel. Between Triller and Instagram Reels, not to mention Lickee, TikTok has plenty of people waiting to step into their shoes, or prepared to compete directly with TikTok.

Tik Tok users are super happy with the content at Tik Tok and presumably will be quite unhappy if the app is banned. When asked to rate their satisfaction with the various digital services consumers use to view video, the viewers of Tik Tok were the most satisfied among the consumers of any of the free digital video services.

I reached out directly to Kevin Mayer, the newly appointed CEO of Tik Tok, and former head of Disney DIS +3.3%’s Direct to Consumer and International groups. Mr. Mayer said in a statement, “Tik Tok lets hundreds of millions of people across the US and around the world experience new ideas and find their voice through short, immersive, expressive videos. It’s truly inspiring to see how our users form communities and connect through this platform, and we are dedicated to continuing to provide a fun and safe experience for them to show their creativity and engage with entertaining content.”

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