Much Like Cord Cutting Itself, Big Media Execs Think TikTok Is A Fad That Will Just Fade Away

from the meet-the-new-boss dept

For more than a decade, cable and broadcast executives brushed aside the threat of cable TV “cord cutting” (ditching traditional cable TV) as either a nonexistent threat or a temporary phenomenon. There were endless reports about how these users were poor and unimportant (they weren’t), or how the phenomenon would end once Millennials bought homes and starting procreating (it didn’t).

Now, traditional cable and media executives seem similarly ignorant about the threat that TikTok poses to their traditional video empires. Last year, advertisers indicated that TikTok users were spending 90 minutes a day on the free app, increasingly eating into traditional TV time. 90.3% of broadcast and cable networks saw notable audience decline between 2016 and 2021.

Much of that decline was thanks to a wide variety of streaming alternatives. But a lot of it was also thanks to YouTube and TikTok. As a recession comes and folks look to cut corners, traditional TV will again be among the first to take the pinch. According to Vox’s Peter Kafka, the traditional TV industry’s plan is… no plan at all:

So what is Big Media doing to counter or respond to TikTok’s threat? Nothing more than hope it’s a fad that goes away, from what I can tell. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, so I called around and heard … crickets. I triple-checked by asking Nathanson, who just dug deep into TikTok’s impact — did he know of any media companies doing anything interesting in response? His one-word, all-caps answer: “NOPE.”

Keep in mind that many media giants (Comcast NBC Universal, for example) can always recoup their losses by price gouging customers stuck on their monopolized broadband networks (83 million Americans live under a broadband monopoly). And as Kafka notes, at least the industry isn’t responding to this new threat by attempting to sue the hell out of it (as it did in the early YouTube era).

That said, TikTok is only just ramping up its ad business, and I’d imagine you’ll see a lot more smear campaigns against the company (see: this one from Facebook) as it begins to bruise more egos. At the same time, today’s hot trends can quickly become old news (see Netflix’s fall from grace), and there’s always new disruption waiting in the wings for traditional cable executives to be wholly unprepared for.

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Comments on “Much Like Cord Cutting Itself, Big Media Execs Think TikTok Is A Fad That Will Just Fade Away”

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13 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Tik Tok did 2 things it made an app that’s easy to use , simple easy to use video edit functions ,
for you page, it works out what you like and shows it to you. No need to search for content
Any youg person that makes video is on tik Tok, it also licensed all the big music company’s music rights So there’s no wave of videos being removed because there’s 2 seconds of music in the background

So there’s really nothing they can do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tik Tok will likely disappear before too long. However, this won’t have the result that Big Media Execs hope for: Tik Tok will disappear because some other platform will capture the spotlight, making it even easier for people to share things in a positive way. And it’s unlikely to be SnapChat or Spotify or Meta or Google or Apple that does it: it may be ByteDance acquiring/spinning up a new product like Facebook did with Instagram, or it could be a new entrant with a killer feature, like what happened with SnapChat. And Tik Tok will join all those other media platforms as the thing a “certain segment” uses but is no longer widely popular.

Anonymous Coward says:

Those execs can’t see the reason why streaming users will not come back, and that is who wants to watch on somebody else’s schedule when there are so many sources for watching on your own schedule. The other problem that they have is is Patreon and the like, where fans can fund their favorite series, may fewer programs per year, but gaining behind the scenes benefits, i.e. Timeteam.

TaboToka (profile) says:

Deja Vu!

When I worked at a Major Metropolitan Newspaper ages ago, there was the same attitude from the publisher/editors about the threat from online sources.

Craig’s list killed classifieds almost overnight, and that was a steady stream of income gone. At that point, I think they had a small chance to take bold steps and maybe stayed relevant.

Stock prices, weather, movie times, etc. all fell like dominoes. Suddenly the only thing the paper offered was yesterday’s AP stories and some columnists you couldn’t get elsewhere.

I don’t know if there was a way out back then, but I can tell you that doing nothing is a sure-fire recipe to get smashed to bits by your younger, hungrier competition.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Interesting mistakes

YouTube and TikTok

What’s funny is the article title and focus is on TikTok. Lmao. What’s the company’s user base. How many and what percentage of global internet streaming users.
I’m talking active users, not one time or one day users. 2 billion downloads is an impressive number out of context. Despite a few hundred million users claimed in the last Neilson report on it I read.

However replace TikTok with generic-name and the rest is suddenly correct.

The era of time based viewing is over. Especially in the US.
Roughly half the prime time viewership watchers the same 6 stations M-F.
The political commentary shows of FoxNews, MSNBC, and CNN make up the majority of that.
Pro wrestling, boxing, and cage/mma fighting take another large daily chunk.
Thing is all of that can be watched streaming too.
Network prime time and classical sports viewership is way down.

Here’s a state sports wise. Prime is roughly $100 per year. Discovery+, Peacock, AppleTV; all about $100 per year or less.
Prime
MLB, $25/m
NBA $7
NFL $27m

Alone
NBA $15m
Motor trend $5mo

Apple TV
MLS included in future

Peacock; live and on demand sports. WWE and independent wrestling

NWA is $6.99mo

Fightful from $8.99

Discovery+ gives you tennis, golf,

Let’s not forget premium YouTube.

The only thing that keeps telco giants alive right now is easy billing.

Many simply like the single bill and willingly (or semi-) pay for the convince. The last big cord cut came in the housing recession. I expect another one soon with our economy in turmoil.

And in areas with more than one carrier $75/month gigabit level internet (750-1500mbps) is fairly common.

The final cable death scream will come when 5Ghs antennas reach saturation.
Unlikely the final price but testing of 5G hot-box lines from $15.99-$49.99 are being trialed.

It’s not TikTok that will kill cable. Not a chance. High speed wireless, however, very well could do it!

Feldie47 (profile) says:

Tik Tok ubiquity

These media companies have no clue what’s about to hit them. As a teacher for over half a century I can state without hyperbole, the student body of America, middle school, high school & college is mesmerized by TikTok. I jokingly walk through the halls whispering ‘Tik Tok Tik Tok as I pass my students who are oblivious to everything but the video they are looking at. They smile and then proceed to bump into everything.

PaulT (profile) says:

It probably is in the long term. Although, why you’d expect users to go to traditional cable instead of a new/different social media platform when they tire of it is a mystery.

Ultimately, what’s happening is that as people get more choice, they are less likely to choose the old ways, especially if they’re young enough to have grown up with that choice. Whether it’s Tik Tok, YouTube, Netflix, Minecraft or other videogames, many things eat into the cable audience that used to be guaranteed when the main alternative was OTA TV with limited choice. People aren’t going to come crawling back to the restrictive old ways just because one of the new ones stops being the darling of the moment.

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