As TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by members of Congress on Thursday, tens of thousands tuned into the hearing using the app that Chew runs.
The viewership of Chew’s testimony was higher on TikTok than on some other platforms like Twitter and YouTube. For example, at one point during the hearing, ABC News’ TikTok live stream of the hearing had over 54,000 viewers — more than double the viewership of its identical YouTube stream.
And many of the streams far surpassed the views on the official congressional livestream on YouTube, which hovered around 5,000 throughout the hearing.
It was a sign of TikTok’s prominence in the world of video livestreaming — as well as users’ growing interest in the political debate over a possible TikTok ban.
The “TikTok LIVE” feature allows both amateur creators and official legacy media accounts to stream content live on the app, and viewers can comment and react in real time.
Branded media accounts like NBC News, ABC, NowThis, and Yahoo Finance boasted some of the highest viewership numbers. (NBC and NowThis each had over 20,000 viewers at times during the hearing.)
But over a dozen everyday users also went live during Chew’s testimony by aiming their phone’s camera at a TV or computer that was playing the hearing. Some added their own commentary to the stream.
In the comments on the live streams, the bulk of viewers were, perhaps predictably, on TikTok’s side, saying that members of Congress were bullying Chew, not letting him speak, and trying to tamp down on freedom of expression on TikTok.
The TikTok LIVE feature has risen in popularity over the last year, as “the company appears to be increasingly focused on its livestreaming program,” The Verge reported last fall. In recent months, other platforms like Tumblr and YouTube have rolled out new livestreaming features that are similar to those on TikTok.
Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok that has the same parent company, has become a powerhouse for live e-commerce over the past two years, allowing people to sell products while broadcasting live on the app. Semafor reported last year that TikTok was trying to bring livestream shopping industry to the U.S.