Is TikTok the future of television?

Is TikTok the future of television? Streaming companies like Peacock are learning that Gen Z is perfectly happy watching movies and TV shows in small increments on a mobile phone screen.

TikTok has been home to dance challenges, weird food creations, makeup transformations, financial advice, and increasingly—movies and television shows.

The site has been inundated with clips from pirated shows and films. If you search the phrase “full movies on tiktok,” it brings up content with more than 100 million total views. Additionally “full episode” also brings up videos with millions of views. Although it might seem wild to watch a show or movie in three-minute increments, viral pirated videos and clips have helped build a Gen Z audience for new shows like Amazon Freevee’s Jury Duty. Frequently, these sorts of videos get removed for copyright strikes. Now some streaming companies are recognizing the benefit of “airing” shows on TikTok. 

Last month, Peacock made the full pilot episode of its half-hour comedy series, Killing It, available on TikTok. This was ahead of the second season premiere, uploading it in five parts. According to a Peacock spokesperson, over seven million users viewed the videos on the app. This introduces the Craig Robinson-led show to “a whole new audience who likely wouldn’t have discovered it otherwise.”

The effort marks the first time a streaming service brought a full episode of its scripted series to TikTok. It could be the future of TV as young generations continue to scope out entertainment in virtual spaces lived in. 

The move could also prove to be beneficial for Peacock as it attempts to drive new subscribers to its platform. The NBCUniversal-owned streaming service reported in its latest quarterly earnings that it added just two million subscribers. This brings its total number of U.S. subscribers to 24 million. With a growing number of streaming services competing for Americans’ stretched budgets, brands like Peacock seemingly have nothing to lose when trying to reach Gen Z in the digital age. 

In recent years, TV has become a second screen for Gen Z viewers. More of the generation turn to streaming and online platforms for entertainment. Cable TV continues to be on the decline as cord cutting continues to rise. This is according to streaming insights firm MNTN Research. The study found that cord-cutters or “cord-nevers,” those who never had a cable subscription to begin with, skewed younger. They show no interest in cable TV subscriptions after they moved out of their parents’ households. The research also found that the number of cord-cutters and cord-nevers are expected to reach 138.1 million by next year. 

Streaming services have certainly played a part in subscribers discovering older cable TV shows. The legal drama Suits, which originally aired on USA Network from 2011 to 2019, saw a resurgence on Netflix (it’s also available to stream on Peacock) when it began streaming on platform. Moreover this shot it to the top of Nielsen’s streaming charts. Some of the CW’s shows like All American and Riverdale, which are popular with Gen Z viewers, also saw a similar surge after the network licensed the shows to Netflix. Experts have referred to the phenomenon as the “Netflix effect” in recent years.

Netflix used to seek full ownership of series and films. Now the company is starting to show more flexibility when it comes to licensing. So are other competitors like Warner Bros. Discovery, Amazon and Apple, industry sources told Insider in a recent report. Insiders and observers have partially blamed the former business model on what led to the double strikes in Hollywood.

But in an ever-changing digital landscape, cable networks and streaming services are increasingly relying on social media and online platforms to stay engaged with Gen Z. Traditional live TV programming is experiencing a slow death in the internet age. Fans choose to watch clips of Saturday Night Live and late night talk shows online rather than on a live broadcast. The Wrap reported last year that the variety sketch show still has solid ratings, ranking No. 4 among the top 50 live broadcasts among 18-49-year-olds. However, it’s not drawing nearly as many viewers as it did in the 1990s. According to the TikTok Marketing Science Global Entertainment Study from December 2021, nearly a quarter (23%) of TikTok users are more likely to discover entertainment content on social and video platforms versus other platforms. 

YouTube continues to be a popular platform for entertainment consumption as well. Additionally social video intelligence firm Tubular Labs previously found that SNL online videos have been a successful way to reach broader audiences. The research found that SNL videos on YouTube racked up 2.1 billion views last season from 374 uploads. That could explain why, along with bringing a full episode to TikTok, Peacock also made the first three episodes of Killing It available on YouTube. The streaming service previously made episodes of its other comedy series Bupkis starring Pete Davidson available on YouTube as well. 

Social media has become such a popular way for Gen Z to find and watch entertainment that it’s led to some unorthodox ways of doing so. Earlier this year, The Super Mario Bros. Movie was uploaded in two parts to the vids that go hard account on Twitter. The video was eventually taken down, but not before 9 million people reportedly watched it. Entertainment companies aren’t big fans of digital piracy. The trend suggests consumers have a strong desire to watch TV shows or movies on social media. 

While Peacock is the first streaming service to upload full episodes of a scripted series on TikTok, it isn’t the first time a streaming platform jumped at the opportunity to bring full episodes to social media. In 2021, WarnerMedia put episodes of popular HBO shows like Game of ThronesEuphoria, and The Flight Attendant on Snapchat. This was so users could watch episodes with their friends in hopes of boosting signups to HBO Max. Warner Bros. has also experimented with screening full-length movies on popular social and gaming platform Fortnite

TikTok was already a popular platform that studios used to promote new releases to Gen Z. But as more cable networks license their programming and streaming services begin bringing full episodes to social media, the line of how media and entertainment is consumed will only continue to get blurrier.


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