Tencent’s TikTok-Style Video Feed Tripled Views in 2022

(Bloomberg) -- WeChat’s fledgling short-video feed tripled the number of its viewers in 2022, as the Tencent Holdings Ltd.-owned messaging app seeks to stem an outflow of traffic to rival TikTok and its Chinese cousin Douyin.

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Total number of views on WeChat Channels surged, helped by a 400% rise in video views based on AI recommendations, as well as a 237% jump in news video views, Tencent executives said during the company’s annual WeChat conference Tuesday. That propelled growth in Channels’ livestreaming e-commerce, with total gross merchandise value jumping more than 800%, they said.

Channels, which executives said logged 200% viewer growth in 2022, has become a strategic focus for Tencent, as the sprawling games and e-commerce giant fights to keep WeChat users’ attention in an increasingly crowded contents market. Search growth at WeChat — China’s most ubiquitous app — is slowing, with monthly active user growth up just 14% in 2022, compared with a 40% jump the previous year.

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The payment and smartphone backbone of Tencent’s sprawling empire is under growing pressure to monetize its offerings to offset the conglomerate’s struggling streaming and domestic games operations. WeChat’s TikTok-style feature has been a bright spot in the company’s portfolio. Executives have said advertising revenue generated by the new service should surpass 1 billion yuan ($150 million) in the fourth quarter.

Unveiled in 2020, the app’s short-video feature — like Douyin — allows users to scroll through an endless stream of videos or photos recommended by algorithms. Users can now also scout for nearby live-streamers and tip them with virtual coins.

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