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Intersections between TikTok and TV: Channels and Programmes Thinking Outside the Box

Faculty of Communication Sciences, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, 15782 A Coruña, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Journal. Media 2021, 2(1), 1-13;
Submission received: 26 October 2020 / Revised: 23 December 2020 / Accepted: 12 January 2021 / Published: 18 January 2021


The rise of the TikTok social network has caused the media to confront the younger generation. The platform, which hosts dances, challenges, and funny short videos, has unique features that force a reinvention of social networking strategies. Television has become social and has expanded to new platforms, while young people are abandoning the consumption of traditional television. In this study, we explore—for the first time—the presence of television channels and programmes on TikTok and an analysis of the main strategies shown in the 133 found profiles. The results describe a first exploratory phase that lacks specific strategies in most cases, while examples adapted to the logic of the social network emerge: content with a fun and simple tone, with participation in challenges and trends of the moment, as well as a positioning of the brand to—gradually—approach its future potential audiences.

1. Introduction

The impact of new media on the traditional television model has transformed its content, distribution channels, consumer experience, and the understanding of the audience. Television has become social and has emerged out of the TV box to extend its content to a multi-screen scenario dominated by mobile devices, becoming increasingly interconnected to social networks (Proulx and Shepatin 2012). Social media has become both an opportunity and a challenge at the corporate level for professional practice and the production of specific content (Van Dijck and Poell 2015). One of the constant challenges is to connect with the social audience (Quintas-Froufe and González-Neira 2014) and maintain user engagement, a complex issue influenced by the culture of media consumption, perceptions of television and its programmes, and the characteristics of the various social networks or techno-commercial strategies of television producers and social media companies, etc. (Guo and Chan-Olmsted 2015; Moe et al. 2016).
In the continuous process of adapting to the changing characteristics of major social networks, media outlets have recently encountered the unexpected rise of TikTok. In 2019, the Chinese platform became one of the most popular among young audiences worldwide and revalued the format of user-produced short videos (Kaye et al. 2020). Given the success of this social network, media organisations have been gradually incorporated (Vázquez-Herrero et al. 2020) to position their brands and content. However, TikTok’s own logic, characterised by the emotional dimension of its videos—humour, fun, music, dance, challenges, etc.—and new forms of interaction and editing possibilities (Feng et al. 2019) forces media editors to redesign their social media strategies.
In the intersection between television and TikTok, the characteristics of a traditional channel, which remains one of the main sources of information and entertainment for adult audiences, and those of a new and growing social network with a specific language and logic in which the younger generations find—in addition to fun content—a place for information (Newman et al. 2020), are contrasted. To discover how television channels and programmes adapt to this new social platform and its language, this work starts by formulating the following research questions:
RQ1: Which television channels and programmes are present on TikTok?
RQ2: What strategies do television channels and programmes on TikTok employ?

1.1. TV Strategies, Social Media, and New Audiences

Television is not dead, but the classic modalities of television consumption tend to occupy the attention of the audience only at very specific moments and around very determined phenomena. This is what is known as ‘event-TV’, which finds a powerful ally in social networks where the audience comments, shares, and co-creates content. The user experience is also strengthened with personalised offers that the audience can access from multiple devices, at any time, and from anywhere (Tse 2016).
Internet connectivity, multiple devices, social networks, and new audience behaviours have transformed the television model (Ross 2008). Social audience measurement has become critical in the commercial development of the television industry (Kosterich and Napoli 2016) and has also affected the corporate and content strategies of television channels and programs. The impact of social media has led broadcasters to formulate new policies to integrate social networks into their programming, promotion, and audience interaction strategies (Evans 2014).
Television is evolving to capture a multiplatform audience which, in order to fight the boredom of watching only one programme, demands interaction with native content for mobile devices through transmedia storytelling and no more than six seconds to tell a story (Vázquez 2015). Watching television has become a transmedia experience that has transformed the temporalities of television’s narratives, moving from a linear temporal structure to one of the overlapping experiences in a single narrative moment across diverse platforms and screens (Evans 2015). Television broadcasters have taken on a multi-platform production that complements linear television (Doyle 2010) and transforms the consumption and socialisation around television content (Simons 2015). Those changes have been significantly influenced by the proliferation of over-the-top (OTT) platforms or the growth of internet video consumption.
In a context where niche audiences—understood as clusters of users strategically gathered around communities—predominate, television media implement policies to reach them through social networks, involve them in their creative and content diffusion strategies, and try to control their contributions as fans to the building of the television brand (Navar-Gill 2018). In their performance on social networks, Lin and Peña (2011) point out that television actors tend to publish more task-oriented posts than socio-emotional ones, even though these are the types that generate the most impact on the audience—especially those with a positive tone. The authors also point out that the influence of the type of content also differs according to the genre of the programmes.
Social networks are also an opportunity to connect with new audiences. A report by the Pew Research Center (Perrin 2018) highlights the generational differences in TV consumption and renewed habits in young people. They prefer to watch TV via streaming: 31% prefer to watch ‘app/web on a smartphone’ and 26% prefer ‘live+DVR/time-shifted TV’ (Nielsen 2020).
Designing strategies to adapt to new consumption models becomes a challenge for television that relies on social networks to improve its connections with what they already consider their audience of the immediate future—Generation Z, also known as iGen, Generation Net, or Centennials. These young people are a difficult demographic to pin down because they include late millennials, including their younger brothers and sisters in Generation Z and even shaking up kids who are still learning to read (Twenge 2017). They are hyperconnected teenagers who share traits of generations Y and Z, inclined towards the virtual world; digital natives who met the internet at birth; they are pragmatic and relate to each other through online communities on Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Badoo, Tinder, YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, Telegram, etc. (Rodríguez-Vázquez and García-Ruíz 2019). Generation Z, despite having multiple technological devices to stay connected and consume content, maintains the smartphone as the main channel for access and connection to social networks, audiovisual content, music, video games, etc. (Turner 2015). Their television consumption behaviour is free—in terms of devices, choice of moment, and content—and occurs largely through the offer of OTTs, is multi-screen, and remains interconnected with social networks (Patch 2018).

1.2. Media Adaptation to Social Media (Logic)

The popularisation of social networks soon made them indispensable platforms for the media, causing changes in their business strategies, content production, and distribution, as well as in their relationship with audiences. Social media logic, understood as ‘the processes, principles, and practices through which these platforms process information, news, and communication’ (Van Dijck and Poell 2013), expands beyond the platforms that generate it to fully impact media dynamics. Nieborg and Poell (2018) call this process platformisation, whereby economic, governmental, and infrastructural extensions of digital platforms modify the production dynamics of the cultural industries. This redistribution of power is visible between the news media and platform companies, and the growing dependence of the former on the latter results in the dislocation of news journalism (Ekström and Westlund 2019). Thus, outside media organisations, social media also affects journalistic practices and norms, adapting them to their own logic of operation and consumption (Hermida and Mellado 2020).
In this scenario, mainstream media strive to adapt to social media (Newman 2009), and news organisations assume a multichannel communication method, in whose dynamics each platform is employed in different phases of content production and distribution (Neuberger et al. 2019). This involves experimenting with formats adapted for each social network, which often involves the production of specific or native content for each platform. On Facebook, the algorithm adjustment made in 2014 forced media to publish more video content to maintain its visibility on the platform, a challenge that digital-native and broadcast publishers took up with less difficulty than print media (Tandoc and Maitra 2018). The tendency to distribute content in more visual forms also extended to Twitter, a social network on which media companies experimented with different formats depending on the characteristics of the genre being broadcast (García-Avilés and Arias Robles 2016).
In a context in which communication and journalism are increasingly mobile and ubiquitous (Westlund and Quinn 2018; Salaverría and De-Lima-Santos 2020), content production and distribution strategies are evolving from digital-first to mobile-first or even social-first or social-only (Hill and Bradshaw 2018), adapting to the formats and possibilities of native mobile social networks. The immediacy of content distribution has given rise to forms such as live-blogging (Matheson and Wahl-Jorgensen 2020) and the live broadcast of events through Facebook Live, Periscope, or Snapchat, which achieve engagement of users thanks to immersion, immediacy, interaction, and sociality (Haimson and Tang 2017). The popularisation of Instagram resulted in the publication of photographs, computer graphics, or videos, and in the production of ephemeral content through its stories for the dissemination of its news, coverage of events, the publication of specials, or the search for user interaction (Vázquez-Herrero et al. 2019). Instant messaging networks such as WhatsApp and Telegram have also been adopted by the media for the personalised distribution of their information content (Negreira-Rey et al. 2017). In addition, the standardisation of some wearables, such as smartwatches, forces experimentation with new microformats that allow the consumption of content ‘at a glance’ (Silva et al. 2017).
Regarding the adaptation of television to social media and innovation in visual formats, García-Avilés (2020) points out that broadcasters must offer different content for digital platforms that exploit the potential of their images and present specific publication guidelines for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, networks on which content broadcast on television can be complemented to develop transmedia strategies.
To a large extent, the media depends on the distribution of content through social networks to attract traffic to the web and audiences to the main platform, engaging users and building participatory relationships with the audience (Xia et al. 2020). This impact on users is, in turn, conditioned by the growing incidental consumption of news through social media, which is especially pronounced among young audiences who are associated, in this case, with intensive use of the smartphone and a constant connection to social networks (Boczkowski et al. 2018).
The dynamics of content consumption through social media are also based on the logic of virality (Klinger 2013), which is defined by Nahon et al. (2011, p. 1) as the ‘process which gives any information item (picture, video, text, or any other audiovisual textual artifact) the maximum exposure, relative to the potential audience, over a short duration, distributed by many nodes’. In this sense, Welbers and Opgenhaffen (2019) explain that virality depends on news sharing, and pieces about softer news topics being more share-worthy (Kalsnes and Larsson 2018) or stories of emotional and personal character (Wahl-Jorgensen 2020). However, the scope of content on social networks is also highly conditioned by the recommendation algorithms of each platform (DeVito 2017), and through the options for interaction and sharing of each social network (Larsson 2018).

1.3. TikTok

TikTok is the fastest-growing micro-video social network for mobile devices and the latest social platform to attract media attention. Micro-videos, characterised as videos of a few seconds duration usually recorded with a smartphone (Nie et al. 2019), are a booming media format that are not just exploited by the TikTok social network. Instagram joined this trend with the launch of Reels in August 2020, Facebook tried the same with the now-closed application Lasso, and Byte appeared as the short video application successor of the old Vine.
TikTok leads the field with more than 800 million users, which places it in sixth place of the most popular social media mobile apps, with more than two billion downloads worldwide (We Are Social 2020). During 2019, the application reached 738 million downloads, while during the first quarter of 2020, it surpassed the mark of the maximum downloads achieved by an app in that period (Sensor Tower 2020a, 2020b). The success of TikTok is associated with its popularity among users of so-called Generation Z, while boomers or millennials are less familiar with the app (Pellicer 2019; Schmidt 2019).
TikTok is a version of the Chinese application Douyin, which was launched in September 2016 by ByteDance (Kaye et al. 2020), which has been adapted for the international market. Douyin’s success in China led the company to create the TikTok brand for expansion to other countries from September 2017, eventually buying and merging with in August 2018.
Regarding its characteristics, TikTok is a short video app—with a duration of up to 15 s or 60 s—in which lip-sync type videos predominate (largely inherited from as well as challenges of various kinds (generally identified with hashtags), duets (employed for reactions or other types of responses to other videos), or live shows. Feng et al. (2019) define the characteristics of TikTok around the emotional dimension of its content (attractive, funny, etc.), its interactivity, and its usability.
The content consumption experience in TikTok is highly influenced by the app’s recommendation algorithm. When the user opens it, they are shown a sequence of videos in the so-called For You Page—associated with the #foryou or #fyp hashtags—similar to the explore pages of other apps. Although the user has the option of changing this view to see the publications of the profiles that follow, the recommended videos are shown in order of priority. This is why the engagement options (Larsson 2018), such as likes and shares in less-demanding forms or comments, duets, or lip-syncs in the more-demanding forms, are fundamental for the visibility of the content and its potential virality. Besides the use of hashtags for video tagging associated with various challenges or trends, interaction on TikTok also occurs through the sounds that are used, which can be original, reused from another video or app library, or from the Stitch tool, which allows other users’ videos to be reused in other publications.
The rapid popularisation of TikTok in the international arena is not, however, free of controversy and concerns about the app. Several researchers have pointed out the existence of censorship policies, related to content opposed to the Chinese government (Hern 2019) or related to the discrimination of ugly or poor people’s profiles (Biddle et al. 2020). During 2020, TikTok has also been banned in India (Abi-Habib 2020)—along with other Chinese applications such as WeChat—and prosecuted by the Trump administration (Paul 2020).
However, media outlets have joined this platform to adapt to its logic, connect with the younger public, and reinforce the positioning of their brands on this new channel. During 2020, TikTok has been one of the most used platforms to disseminate information about the coronavirus to young people, both from the media (Sidorenko-Bautista et al. 2020) and official accounts (Ballesteros Herencia 2020), as well as from social movements such as the Black Lives Matter (Richardson 2020). Although some of the first media accounts on TikTok came from, some of the first to join were BBC Radio 1, Teen Vogue, NBC News’ Stay Tuned, the Washington Post, and Clarín or Pulzo (González 2020; Zaffarano 2019; Schmidt 2019). In a previous approach, Klug (2020) explored the presence and adaptation of US news providers—print legacy newspapers and digital natives—identifying a total of 89 accounts. In a previous study, the first to specifically address the performance of media in TikTok with an international scope (Vázquez-Herrero et al. 2020), the authors mapped up to 234 verified media profiles, the result of a progressive incorporation since 2019. They pointed out that there is an effort to adapt media to the logic of TikTok because, in addition to pursuing an informative objective, they elaborate specific content for the platform with the publication of funny and silly videos or the participation in challenges, using the app’s own aesthetics and resources.

2. Methodology

To answer the research questions, we developed an exploratory research study (Stebbins 2001). The object of study has barely been addressed so far due to the recent rise of TikTok, and this research focuses on the intersections between the social platform and television in a novel way. Through this qualitative method, we aim ‘to maximize the discovery of generalisations leading to description and understanding of an area of social or psychological life’ (Stebbins 2001, p. 3).
We respond to RQ1 (Which television channels and programmes are present on TikTok?) by searching for verified profiles of television channels and programmes through the TikTok search engine using keywords and by reviewing the recommendations of each profile up to a level five of depth. In October 2020, we updated the database previously elaborated in February for a published study (Vázquez-Herrero et al. 2020). We obtained a non-probabilistic exploratory sample of 133 TV channels and programmes from around the world. In this phase, we collected the profile identification and engagement and publication data (username, fans, hearts, videos, date of first publication, channel/programme, and country) on 3 October 2020. The quantitative engagement data, such as fans and hearts, were taken from the source code. The accessibility of the data in October 2020 was more restricted than it was in February because TikTok is a social network without an application programming interface (API).
We take as reference previous research on journalistic media on TikTok (Vázquez-Herrero et al. 2020) to analyse the unique aspects of social media logic in the field of television from an inductive process and by selecting illustrative case studies. This second phase will allow us to respond to RQ2 (What strategies do the television channels and programmes on TikTok employ?) by identifying practices and focusing on the main genres and themes of the identified profiles.

3. Results

3.1. Exploring TV on TikTok

The sample of TV channels and programmes has 133 profiles in TikTok, non-probabilistic data that represents a starting point for future studies because it is still an emerging platform. Looking at when they first started publishing videos, we found profiles created from 2016 onwards, prior to the launch of TikTok outside China in 2017, and which would have originated from, with whom TikTok merged in August 2018. As shown in Figure 1, the year of greatest growth so far has been 2019, when the start of activity of 81 profiles was identified, especially in the second half of the year, with 60 new profiles of TV channels and programmes being created—29.1% of the sample was born, specifically, between October 2019 and December 2019. However, the data for 2020 is partial and does not faithfully represent the trend, as the birth of these channels is very close to the data collection, and it is unlikely that they had obtained profile verification.
When we analysed the country of origin of the television channel or programmes (Table 1), we observed a very marked presence from the United States (27.8%), where important media such as ESPN, MTV, or Nickelodeon were also present worldwide. The same is true of some brands and formats originating in the United States, such as America’s Got Talent, MTV’s Wild’n out, America’s Funniest Home Videos, The Late Late Show with James Corden, or The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. Second, Spain (12.0%) is represented by national broadcasters such as public broadcaster RTVE and Antena 3, in addition to regional media such as À Punt Mèdia and Canalsur and sports media such as Gol and Teledeporte. Regarding programmes with a presence on TikTok, El Hormiguero, Got Talent España, and Operación Triunfo stand out. In third place, the United Kingdom (10.5%) has profiles of channels such as Nickelodeon UK, MTV UK, and the BBC, as well as programmes such as Got Talent Global, X Factor Global (both of British origin), Britain’s Got Talent, and Love Island.
The United States, Spain, and the United Kingdom are followed by France (7.5%) with TF1 and M6; Germany (6.0%) with Sport 1 and Tagesschau; Russia (4.5%) with Телеканал ТНТ and CTC; and Jordan (3.8%) with Roya’s channels and programmes. Another 19 countries on different continents appeared with fewer than five identified cases.
Regarding the classification of television content profiles on TikTok, 50.4% are programmes, 47.4% are channels, and 2.3% are digital products. Analysing the channels and their themes (Table 2), we observed that almost half are general, as is the case with France Télévisions, RTÉ One, RTP, and Telemundo, etc. Among the thematic channels, we identified nine news channels (MSNBC, YTN News), nine sports channels (Sky Sports, TyC Sports, TSN), eight musical channels (VH1, MTV, EskaTV), five entertainment channels (CTC, Show TV, Zoom TV), and others aimed at children or devoted to comedy.
Concerning television programmes (Table 3), the main focus is on talent shows, a category in which 22 profiles were found, representing 16.5% of the total sample of channels and programmes, only behind the general channels. Among the talent shows are Got Talent, MasterChef, The Voice, and X Factor, with these same brands being present across several countries. There are 10 news programmes, including CBS This Morning, E! News, Tagesschau, Stay Tuned, and Jornal da Record. In the comedy category, eight programmes are included, such as America’s Funniest Home Videos, Wild’n Out, and Stand-Up. Six examples are registered for contests (Fear Factor, Guerreros) and reality shows (90 Day Fiancé, How Far is Tattoo Far?). The variety of genres is completed with nine more categories, such as late shows, magazine shows, and talk shows.
As a separate case, we considered three digital products that were born as television initiatives originally for the internet and with a general scope in terms of subject. On the one hand, Playz and Mtmad are platforms of RTVE and Mediaset in Spain, respectively, aimed at a young audience. On the other hand, Yle Areena is a platform of the Finnish public broadcaster with content for radio and television together with digital-only content.
An analysis of the engagement data allows for an understanding of the scale of the interaction between users and TikTok publications. In terms of fans (followers), the average in the sample is 721,000 per profile, with the highest figure being that of the ESPN channel with 11.7 million fans, followed by Nickelodeon (9.3 M), Wild’n Out (7.8 M), America’s Funniest Home Videos (5.9 M), America’s Got Talent (5.1 M), and MTV (5.0 M). Table 4 lists the most-followed channels and programmes for each category for illustration and reference purposes.
In terms of hearts (likes) in the publications accumulated by profile, the average is 13,332,000 hearts and, once again, ESPN holds first place (608.5 M), followed by America’s Funniest Home Videos (177.0 M), Nickelodeon (170.1 M), Wild’n Out (130.1 M), America’s Got Talent (58.5 M), and Comedy Central (49.7 M).
Regarding the volume of publications, the average number of videos per profile is 175, although this is influenced by the age of the account and the strategy employed on TikTok. The most prolific channels are ESPN (1796 videos), Nickelodeon (1628), America’s Funniest Home Videos (1467), MTV (805), and Zoom TV (696).
In both fans and hearts and the number of videos published, profiles originating in the United States present the greatest data. For this reason, the second phase of the analysis continued its exploration of the television channels and programmes on TikTok through illustrative cases, avoiding a selection by objective criteria which would reduce the study to the United States case study.

3.2. TV Strategies on TikTok

Most general channels do not have a clear strategy to link their activity on TikTok with their television offer. However, we can highlight TF1 and France Télévisions as two profiles presenting promos of programmes, including data from the TV broadcast or the BBC channel which frequently mentions its iPlayer streaming service. The most common practice is to broadcast fragments of programmes, with highlights or curious and funny moments, and participating in challenges on the platform.
Thematic channels are similar, although with slight differences in sports and news channels. The sports media bet on the broadcasting of curious, funny, and surprising videos about the practice of sport, including content from professional competitions and amateur videos that are even created by other users, as often happens on ESPN or Sky Sports. There are different strategies from news media outlets—adaptation of cuts from the television news on Mirror Now, behind-the-scenes on MSNBC, and an informative and public service approach on profiles such as YTN News or BR24. On music channels, the general tendency is to broadcast fragments of programmes, highlighting the case of MTV UK which deals with current affairs with an informative character, such as Black Lives Matter or mental health, or EskaTV, which participates in challenges and questions to the audience on the occasion of the day of Polish music. In terms of entertainment and children’s channels, they again use fragments of series and programmes, with some mention of the television programming, for example, on the Russian channels TNT and CTC or on the American Nickelodeon.
In the analysis by genres, the results are similar: in most cases, outstanding fragments of the programmes are broadcast without being integrated into the logic of TikTok. This strategy fits well with talent shows—America’s Got Talent (Peacock), Got Talent Global, X Factor Global, and Deutschland sucht den Superstar (RTL)—where surprising skills, performances, and jury reactions are shown. It is also perceived as suitable content in comedy and educational programmes for humour and experiments, respectively, which are two types of content that do well on this social network.
On the other hand, references to television broadcasting are infrequent, although they indicate the channel, the day and the time in some cases, such as The Daily Show (Comedy Central), Guerreros (Canal 1), Catfish (MTV), America’s Got Talent, The Voice (NBC), Got Talent España (Telecinco), and The X Factor (ITV, STV). The connections between TikTok and linear television are scarce in this sense. However, TikTok also works as a news channel with promotional content, advances, and announcements such as the date of the new season or about open castings.
The strategies of television programmes affect, in specific cases, the search for a new connection with the audience. It is especially appropriate for contests and talent shows, where users react to official publications through duets (split-screen and simultaneous reaction to the original video) and challenges (using a certain hashtag they respond to a challenge based on a dance or the demonstration of a skill, generally). We can highlight challenges from Hot Ones: The Game Show (TruTV), a contest in which participants answer questions and eat spicy chicken wings, where users are shown eating spicy food, or from Operación Triunfo (RTVE), a musical talent show, based on dances proposed by the programme’s choreographer. In both cases, the challenges coincide exactly with the purposes of the programme, including protagonist elements such as the dynamics of the contest or one of the academy’s teachers, respectively.
For some programmes, content is developed specifically for TikTok, oriented to trending challenges and making use of the resources and tone of the platform. The Late Late Show (CBS) used to develop content adapted to current web topics, as The Tonight Show (NBC) did with the announced TikTok ban in the United States. In this last example, and others like El Hormiguero (Antena 3), the channels are frequently involved in the challenges of the moment and use popular songs that are trending on the platform.
In news programmes, the variety of publications is greater and an effort to adapt is identified because a fragment of the television broadcast will hardly attract attention in this case. However, accounts such as Stay Tuned (NBC) and Tagesschau (ARD) combine news with interesting, entertaining, and curious content to attract younger generations, focusing on explaining current events with a discourse adapted to the platform (selection of transcendental themes, use of graphic and sound elements, brevity, presence of young journalists, etc.).
Finally, we must mention a strategy that cuts across the different genres and is present, in some cases, in a prominent way—showing what life is like behind the scenes of the programme or media company. This type of video always shows a humorous, friendly, and animated tone with music; they can be seen in the profiles of the late show The Tonight Show or the news programme Jornal da Record (RecordTV).

4. Conclusions

The emergence of TikTok has not gone unnoticed by TV channels and programmes, which are facing a key challenge for their future—young people are not hooked to the traditional model of television, and alternative methods are being amplified through YouTube, OTT, and mobile devices. Social networks are consolidating as extensions of a television experience that requires an approach that thinks outside the TV box.
On TikTok, 133 profiles of television channels and programmes were identified (RQ1), with a significant growth noticed since the last quarter of 2019. Among the channels there are general and thematic ones—ESPN and Nickelodeon stand out with around 10 million followers each, although they are still far from the 44 million1 who follow top ‘tiktoker’ Charli d’Amelio. Among the television programmes with a presence on TikTok, there are various genres and formats, but the number of talent shows is striking—22 examples were found across different countries. In a third category, we identified three digital-only television initiatives made for a young audience, such as Yle Areena, Playz, and Mtmad.
Platformisation (Nieborg and Poell 2018) and social media logic (Van Dijck and Poell 2013) have encouraged content producers to look for adapted and differentiated formats (García-Avilés 2020) for each new scenario. However, the strategies of TV channels and programmes on TikTok (RQ2) are still weak and are mostly based on the diffusion of fragments of the original television broadcast as highlights and funny moments. References to television programming are also scarce, so there is no clear objective of driving audiences to the main platform. However, we have described cases in which a singularity of the content and an adaptation to the logic of TikTok is being sought: getting involved in the challenges of the moment and promoting others related to the programme, receiving feedback from the audience through duets and lip-syncs, using editing resources and filters in their messages, or using the songs of the moment and employing a friendly and funny tone. One of the practices that serves as an extension of the media outlets shows what happens behind the scenes, providing a new and original perspective on the organisation or programme.
The search for new audiences on the networks to generate engagement and direct them towards the main platform (Xia et al. 2020) has to be among the objectives of television entities on TikTok to deal with the near future of generations disconnected from the television set. Virality (Klinger 2013) and the influence of the recommendation algorithm on this platform are two drivers of content delivery over which the producer has no control, but which are closely related to the creation of TikTok-adjusted content—in tone, language, music, and tagging. The last two aspects are key points in the logic of the social network because it is possible to navigate the content through the sound and hashtags used. The songs of the moment and the challenges are connected and are the leitmotiv of much of the content of the platform.
The study establishes a first framework in the analysis of the intersections of TikTok and TV, although it is in an initial phase of this relationship that limits the generalisation of results. It is necessary to advance in the research analysing content, i.e., to assess the use of TV broadcast fragments and the typology of contents on TikTok. Future research must also address the identification of objectives and purposes when presenting a media brand to a new generation and analyse how to build their loyalty as an audience. So far, we can refer to the intersection of television and TikTok as an initial exploration that still needs to be further explored to find specific strategies. As has happened in news media such as the Washington Post or NBC’s Stay Tuned, it will be necessary to think outside the box to reinvent television for the social network of the moment.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, J.V.-H., M.-C.N.-R. and A.-I.R.-V.; Investigation and methodology, J.V.-H. and M.-C.N.-R.; Supervision, A.-I.R.-V.; Writing—original draft, J.V.-H., M.-C.N.-R. and A.-I.R.-V; Writing—review & editing, J.V.-H. and M.-C.N.-R. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research has been developed within the research project “Digital Native Media in Spain: Storytelling Formats and Mobile Strategy” (RTI2018–093346-B-C33), funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (Government of Spain) and the ERDF structural fund.

Data Availability Statement

Data sharing not applicable.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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October 2020.
Figure 1. New profiles on TikTok of TV channels and programmes by quarter.
Figure 1. New profiles on TikTok of TV channels and programmes by quarter.
Journalmedia 02 00001 g001
Table 1. TikTok profiles of television channels and programmes by country of origin.
Table 1. TikTok profiles of television channels and programmes by country of origin.
Dominican Republic1
South Korea3
United Arab Emirates2
United Kingdom14
United States37
Table 2. Classification of television channels present on TikTok.
Table 2. Classification of television channels present on TikTok.
TV ChannelProfiles
Table 3. Classification of television programmes present on TikTok.
Table 3. Classification of television programmes present on TikTok.
TV ProgrammeProfiles
Talent show22
Late show3
News magazine2
Talk show2
Table 4. Most-followed TV channels and programmes on TikTok by category.
Table 4. Most-followed TV channels and programmes on TikTok by category.
TV ChannelChildrenNickelodeonUnited States9.3 M
ComedyComedy CentralUnited States2.6 M
EntertainmentТелеканал ТНТRussia1.4 M
GeneralistTelemundoUnited States928.7 k
MusicalMTVUnited States5.0 M
NewsMirror NowIndia191.5 k
SportsESPNUnited States11.7 M
TV ProgrammeComedyWild’n OutUnited States7.8 M
ContestFear FactorUnited States1.0 M
EducationalHet KlokhuisNetherlands113.7 k
Late showThe Late Late ShowUnited States4.3 M
LifestyleFolloversPoland133.9 k
MagazineThe InsiderUnited Arab Emirates78.7 k
NewsE! NewsUnited States1.4 M
News magazineToday ShowUnited States205.2 k
Reality90 Day FiancéUnited States1.8 M
SportsNBA on TNTUnited States362.6 k
Talent showAmerica’s Got TalentUnited States5.1 M
Talk showEl HormigueroSpain845 k
ZappingZapeandoSpain128.9 k
DigitalGeneralYle AreenaFinland52.6 k
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Vázquez-Herrero, J.; Negreira-Rey, M.-C.; Rodríguez-Vázquez, A.-I. Intersections between TikTok and TV: Channels and Programmes Thinking Outside the Box. Journal. Media 2021, 2, 1-13.

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Vázquez-Herrero J, Negreira-Rey M-C, Rodríguez-Vázquez A-I. Intersections between TikTok and TV: Channels and Programmes Thinking Outside the Box. Journalism and Media. 2021; 2(1):1-13.

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Vázquez-Herrero, Jorge, María-Cruz Negreira-Rey, and Ana-Isabel Rodríguez-Vázquez. 2021. "Intersections between TikTok and TV: Channels and Programmes Thinking Outside the Box" Journalism and Media 2, no. 1: 1-13.

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