Tech platforms make pitch for ad deals as TikTok is roiled by politics

FILE PHOTO: A TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration

By Sheila Dang

(Reuters) - Short-form video took center stage at tech and social media companies' annual presentations to advertisers, as platforms like Snap and Meta look to capitalize on TikTok's political uncertainty in the U.S. to take ad dollars from their rival.

The presentations in New York, known as the NewFronts, come just a week after U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill that gives Chinese tech company ByteDance up to one year to divest TikTok, or else the app will be banned over national security concerns. TikTok has vowed to fight the legislation.

The short video platform announced new sports and entertainment partnerships at its NewFront on Thursday evening, including an agreement that broadcaster NBCUniversal will post clips of this summer's Paris Olympics on TikTok.

TikTok is expected to generate $8.66 billion in U.S. ad revenue this year according to an estimate from research firm Emarketer. While it is a fraction of the size of Google and Meta, TikTok kicked off the short-form video craze and prompted rivals to build similar features.

"TikTok must show advertisers that it's business-as-normal, even though it's anything but," Emarketer principal analyst Jasmine Enberg said.

On Wednesday, Snap, which owns photo messaging app Snapchat, said it would also partner with NBCUniversal to send popular influencers to the games to film content. It will also host clips of top concerts from events promoter Live Nation.

"We're having very productive conversations about how Snapchat can help, because there is a lot of noise at the moment," said Patrick Harris, Snap's president of Americas and partnerships. "But we have our heads down and we're making sure we're a dependable and viable platform."

The focus on professionally produced videos is designed to attract brands wary of the downside of social media or artificial intelligence (AI) generated content.

"Brands have to spend a little extra time really thinking about the quality of environments, which is why these content partnerships that are being spun up are so important," said Robert Silver, head of media at digital marketing firm Razorfish.

Facebook and Instagram owner Meta focused its NewFront on Reels, its TikTok competitor that now accounts for half of the time users spend on Instagram.

"Instagram Reels already stands to benefit from a TikTok ban, and Meta wants to ensure that it can attract all the potential displaced users and revenues it can," Emarketer's Enberg said.

Google said on Monday that its own short-form video feature called YouTube Shorts are increasingly being viewed on TV screens in addition to phones.

Despite the uncertainty over TikTok's future, advertisers say they intend to focus on the near-term and some plan to continue advertising until it is no longer possible to do so.

"I think we need to put some blinders on and focus and try to understand on what innovative capabilities are available for advertisers," said Alex Stone, senior vice president of agency partnerships at media buying firm Horizon Media, referring to TikTok's NewFront.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Michael Erman)