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TikTok keen to “explore” more live sports streaming

Platform’s US sports partnerships lead buoyed by NFL and X Games successes.

by Tom Bassam

TikTok keen to “explore” more live sports streaming
  • TikTok’s X Games live streams garnered 1.7m views
  • X Games Aspen saw its TikTok follower count grow 387% during event

TikTok is looking to expand its live sports content, according to Jenna McNaney, the short-form social video platform’s sports and gaming partnerships lead.

Speaking at SportsPro’s 2021 OTT Summit USA virtual event, McNaney detailed some of the successes that TikTok had enjoyed with live streaming. Those include a partnership with the National Football League (NFL) to produce buildup coverage for last month’s Super Bowl and a deal with the ESPN-owned X Games for the winter sports event in Aspen at the end of January.

TikTok aired five sessions of live action for the X Games, with McNaney now keen to explore more live sports streaming.

“[The TikTok live streams] garnered around 1.7 million viewers just in that one day, which was one of our top sports live streams,” said McNaney.

“[The X Games’] follower count, before we did this, was around 83,000 and after it was 405,000. So [the X Games] massively increased their follower growth.

“I’ve seen live streams for sports do that and that’s an area I personally really want to explore going forward is how we bring those live elements and broadcasts into TikTok. Obviously it’s a bit tricky with rights and all that sort of stuff with some of the more traditional big sports, but it’s something that we’re definitely considering going forward.”

According to Forbes, X Games Aspen 2021 content across ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC experienced double-digit viewership increases, up 15 per cent year-over-year (YoY) for all broadcasts across 192 countries and territories. On the social side, the Forbes report said TikTok interactions fuelled 483 per cent YoY growth for the X Games, with the event seeing 105 million video views across the ByteDance platform, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

The NFL partnership was geared towards more familiar TikTok content, just over a longer period, which McNaney believes showcased what the platform can offer rights holders willing to work closely with creators.

“One of our most successful campaigns was the TikTok Tailgate which we did for Super Bowl,” she added.

“We partnered with the NFL and created a two-hour run of show that featured lots of TikTok creators, celebrities, players and legends from the NFL. We had all this diverse content like cooking, tailgate recipes, as well as TikTok creators, with famous creators cut out at the stadium which we would go around and try to locate – it was really fun programming.

“Then we had a live stream with Miley Cyrus, with guests Billy Joel and Joan Jett. That was one of the most successful campaigns we have been a part of and ran with the NFL, I think it sort of shed that different light on sports. It was football content heavy but it also featured other aspects of TikTok that our community really resonated with.”