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TikTok Bites at Heels of Twitch’s Livestream Dominance

Livestreaming video is one of the fastest-growing aspects of social media and two apps are fighting for creators’ loyalty.

Katie Feeney, a TikTok creator, gets ready to film. 

Katie Feeney, a TikTok creator, gets ready to film. 

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

TikTok is taking a page — or many — from Twitch’s playbook.

The wildly popular live video app, made famous with lip-synching music covers and dance moves, is launching a new subscription option for its TikTok Live service on Thursday, granting fans perks in exchange for a monthly fee to access their favorite creators’ content. Access will be restricted to select invited TikTok users as part of a beta launch, then rolled out to all eligible users in coming weeks.

The monetization tool has powered video game streamers on Twitch for years and TikTok has taken note.

Twitch, owned by Amazon.com Inc., launched in 2011 and vaulted to success with video games like League of Legends or Fortnite. It has since become the go-to app for all sorts of live streaming and its most popular content category now is “Just Chatting,” where streamers talk with hundreds or thousands of fans, who respond through a text chat. That kind of content is finding a new home on TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance Ltd.

Live video is one of the fastest-growing areas of social media, and competition between the two apps is getting increasingly cutthroat. TikTok has been investing heavily in live streaming content over the past two years and since 2020 it has wooed about a dozen Twitch employees, including some to work on TikTok Live and serve as liaisons between the creators and the company. TikTok lists 173 open positions referencing “Live,” and 35 for “gaming,” according to its website. At the same time, Twitch has faced an exodus of executives amid a strategy shift over how to monetize its more than 1 million daily active streamers.  

TikTok is also spending heavily in gaming and is conducting tests to feature games on its platform, Reuters reported. Some of those games may be part of the TikTok Live experience, with streamers playing games together and combining their audiences. However, featuring games on the platform isn’t the same as fostering a culture and industry of game livestreamers as Twitch has done.