ByteDance set to merge Musical.ly with Tik Tok into one global video platform under Tik Tok brand

Tik Tok’s China version, Douyin, is not part of the rebranding and will stay as a stand-alone app

Beijing ByteDance Technology will merge teen karaoke app Musical.ly with its popular short-video sharing platform Tik Tok to create one global app under the Tik Tok brand.

Tik Tok will absorb Musical.ly as part of a reorganisation to create better synergies, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named as the information is private. The China version of Tik Tok, called Douyin, will stay as a stand-alone app and not be included as part of the rebranding, the person said.

Tik Tok is a short-video sharing platform where users can watch and produce quick videos using music, stickers and animations as effects. It was the most downloaded non-game app in the Apple app store globally in the first quarter of 2018, reaching 45.8 million downloads, according to Sensor Tower, the San-Francisco-based mobile app research firm.

Although messaging remains the dominant activity in China on mobile, users have more than tripled the amount of time they spend watching short videos in the last year, according to the China Internet Report co-authored by the South China Morning Post, Abacus and 500 Startups. The number of monthly active users for short video apps in China, where Douyin competes with other platforms such as Tencent-backed Kuaishou, doubled in 2017 to 414 million, according to the report.

However, the industry has faced a crackdown on content deemed “vulgar” by Chinese authorities and rising demand for more privacy controls to protect minors.

ByteDance bought Musical.ly, an app popular with American teens, in November 2017 as part of its strategy to expand beyond China. Both Tik Tok and Musical.ly allow users to make and share 15-second videos of themselves.

The decision to combine Tik Tok with Musical.ly was made because the apps are similar in many respects, the person said. Instead of having two separate teams working on essentially the same product, the company sees synergies in merging the two apps, so that users in Asia can see content created by their American counterparts and vice versa, the person said.

Tik Tok said earlier this year that it was seeing more diversified video content on its platform, ranging from food to travel, and not just the usual song and dance routines. The video platform’s popularity skyrocketed initially among the Gen Z consumer base in China – those who’ve reached 18 years old recently – appealing because of its powerful editing tools that help users to easily create and share music videos.

Fierce competition between Bytedance and Tencent in the short video and social arena spilled over into a legal fight earlier this year, with Bytedance announcing it had filed two lawsuits against Tencent over alleged anti-competitive behaviour. On the same day, Tencent said it had filed a lawsuit against Bytedance alleging defamation.