TikTok Live Battles Are Entertaining to Some, but Others Think They're Scams

Battling may not be the most effective use of a user's money, but it's great for TikTok and influencers.


Apr. 3 2024, Updated 4:36 p.m. ET

The most common features of TikTok are likely familiar to most users. The platform is in essence a never-ending series of pre-recorded videos that have been algorithmically designed to appeal to your particular interests. Lately, though, some have noticed that other forms of video have also become popular on the platform.

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TikTok LIVE Battles are one of the newer ways that streamers can entertain you. In these battles, streamers compete with one another and solicit donations from those watching. Here's what we know about the battles, and why they've become so controversial on TikTok.

A TikTok app on a phone screen.
Source: Getty Images
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What is battling on TikTok?

TikTok has long had a livestreaming mode, but more and more prominent users are taking advantage of the LIVE Match mode, which pits two users against one another and declares a winner based on which user can draw the most gifts within a five minute span. The idea of soliciting gifts is not new to the world of livestreams, but this new competitive mode gives users an even stronger incentive to donate to the streamer they like most.

When the feature first emerged, streamers often did something in order to prove that they were worthy of a gift. That might have been performing a song or dance. More recently, though, the trend has shifted so streamers spend most battles trash talking one another and encouraging their fans to donate.

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“I have seen so much of TikTok [battles] where the entire five minutes are just them egging viewers on, pleading for a donation,” Curtin University Professor Crystal Abidin said. “So, that makes it interesting for studying because, on the one hand, you might think, ‘Hey, that’s mundane [and] not a lot of effort’. Yet on the other hand, there are still people supporting these livestreams and are happy to put their money behind these TikTok creators.”

Source: TikTok/@tiktok.official_admin
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Gifts are a win for streamers and TikTok.

If users are willing to part with their money this way, understanding that there will be very little in the way of a reward, it makes sense for both streamers and TikTok itself to take advantage of that. TikTok benefits enormously, taking as much as 70 percent of the money being donated to a particular streamer, while the streamer themself gets the remaining piece of the pie.

These gifts are purchased through coins that you have in your TikTok account, and are purchased with actual cold hard cash.

Although these battles may not seem enormously beneficial to individual users, they have major upside for influencers. TikTok has made a conscious effort to find ways to ensure that influencers are able to make money on the platform, in large part to discourage them from leaving.

Although plenty of TikTok users don't participate in these kinds of battles, it's clear that it's become a workable revenue stream for some. Until that changes or TikTok becomes a fundamentally different platform, we can expect that TikTok battles will continue, potentially even for years to come.

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