TikTok is launching a new feature called "Series” which will allow some of its creators to share longer form videos behind a paywall. According to a release from the company, "Series” enables eligible creators to post collections of stories and each Series can include up to 80 videos, each up to 20 minutes long, giving people a new, longer format to watch their favourite creators and content.
Creators can select how much their Series should cost that best reflects the value of their exclusive content, which can be purchased for access via direct in-video links or through a creator’s profile. Through Series, creators can build even stronger relationships with their viewers while also giving viewers another way to support creators. Individual creators will be able to charge between US$0.99 and US$189.99 for their paywalled content, according to reports on CNBC.
The new feature will not only help monetise the brand, but also further heats up the competition between TikTok and Google owned YouTube which has been known for its long-form videos, and push of its subscription plan. In 2021 for example, YouTube also encroached into the short form video space with YouTube Shorts which many deemed as a direct competitor to TikTok.
According to Kristian Olsen, managing director of TypeA the move definitely gives more control and power in the hands of creators – whose role have become more important in the social sphere. “From a creator perspective, this creates competition to lure winning creators on to TikTok from perhaps another platform where they are more used. This then makes TikTok’s position stronger in the social platform game,” Olsen said.
Ultimately, the move is more of a gain for creators, where Olsen said:
We might be on the verge of a great social migration if this takes off.
“I think it is great in that it puts control in the hands of the creator,” added on James Chua, founder of Germs. He too added that the model would help open up opportunities for other creators currently not on the TikTok ecosystem.
What will be a conundrum for creators is deciding on what should be free content and what is chargeable.
“It is a fine balance and I foresee current TikTok creators will take some time to figure that out,” he said.
While the move essentially ensures that content creators no longer will need to be held hostage by sponsors to include skewed content, and viewers will not be interrupted by 'commercial breaks or mentions' due to the reliance of advertisers, Jeffrey Lim, founder and MD of 8traordinary said the jury is still out whether viewers would be ready to "pay per view" – and of course the amount they will be willing to pay. “This is changing users' behaviours all over again after decades of free content or subscribed content. But if done successfully, this might pave the way for even higher quality and more authentic content for viewers,” said Lim
Competition to YouTube shorts?
Nonetheless the move is definitely in competition to YouTube, said both Lim and Chua.
“Using the analogy of a dollar in the wallet, a bakery shop would be competing the noodle stall for this same dollar because it's about feeding the hunger need. In this case, any content, regardless of the type of platform it's on or format produced, would be competing for the finite 24 hours of each viewer per day,” Lim explained.
What will determine the winning formula, Lim said is:
- longest tail of content
- most relevant of content
- how seamless/easy to access the content
“Whichever platform that does these three things well, they will attract the best of content creators followed by the influx of users and viewers. If this cycle perpetuates, it will come up top,” he added.
Olsen on the other hand, is of the view that the two platforms can work independently as YouTube shorts “still has a way to go with creating a new browsing habit” with its own audience.
Where the impact will be is in migration of loyal followers of creators – which will determine which platform comes out on top.
“The move will test the loyalty of consumers. Will they be willing to pay for specific content? If the answer is yes, then we may see TikTok have a firmer grip on not just short form but long form content as well - making it the quintessential one stop video content spot,” he added.
Between short clips and long form content, the monetisation is better for a creator for long duration content, explained Ranga Somanathan, founder of RSquared Global Ventures. He added:
It not only allows for ad revenues, but it also creates opportunities for the creators to tie up with brands directly and sign-up sponsorship and licensing deals.
Somanathan added that more than competing with YouTube, bringing in the option of longer form content and helping creators to monetise on TikTok better is probably what fuels its flywheel.
“At the end of the day however, a relentless supply of meaningful content with smart recommendation engine, backed by strong monetisation model for creators will put a platform in good position over the long run, said Somanathan,” he added.
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Lee Poh Li, managing director at RAPP added that every platform will look for variations of income stream to monetise its full potential, however given this form is relatively new it might take some time for advertisers to embrace and see the potential.
“I do see how this can be used for some creative content, opportunity to build a brand and mix in some marketing activities.
But it will take some time to compete with YouTube shorts which have been established for a while now,” said Li. She added that in Malaysia, TikTok has a huge following, and YouTube has much of the ad spend - so the competition is likely to be strong.
“At the end of the day, the usage is going to determine the winner. If you are on a public transport, just glance over your shoulder to see what platform people are on. I am always curious to find out, chances are, its either TikTok or YouTube,” she added.
Siddarth Surana, COO, Media360 Communications added that the 20min version can be a tester for a lot of filmmakers and content creators alike. “I definitely think it democratises the content making even further and empowers the creators,” he said.
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