TikTok’s testing a new live engagement element called “Sub Space”, which is a subscriber only, chat-like addition that’ll ideally help to incentivize more sign-ups, by giving paying subscribers dedicated focus in live chats.

TikTok Sub Space

As you can see in these screenshots, shared by Jonah Manzano, Sub Space is a new option within TikTok’s Live subscription tools, which enables creators to set up what’s essentially a private chat room for paying members only.

TikTok Sub Space

Once the Sub Space is established, creators will then be able to either respond to these chats on camera during a live video stream, giving subscribers a dedicated space to engage in real time, or creators will be able to participate in the text chat.

So as noted, it’s like a private chat room for paying users only, which will either separate their discussion from regular viewers in a live broadcast, or give you another means to text back and forth with your paying audience.

That could help to drive more subscriptions, especially for bigger-name creators who already have a dedicated following in the app. Many people would definitely pay to get exclusive access to big stars, and this will enable creators to put more focus on those who are financially supporting their work.

It could also see creators ignore the public chat more often, as another means to drive more subscriptions. Which might work, and it’ll be interesting to see how exactly TikTok creators look to use the option, and what the results of that more siloed engagement activity could be.

TikTok remains on a mission to make live-streams a bigger element of the app, as part of its broader push to facilitate in-stream shopping, with live shopping now being the key revenue driver in the Chinese version of the platform.

TikTok’s in-stream shopping options haven’t drawn significant interest from Western audiences as yet, but it remains hopeful that it can start to churn more money through its systems via the same approach.

And there are some good signs on this front, with in-app spending continuing to rise, largely driven by creator donations, which suggests that, at the least, TikTok users are becoming increasingly comfortable conducting transactions in the app.

And if TikTok can parlay that activity, along with its rising use as a search tool, into more direct spending, the revenue potential is massive.

In China, Douyin, the local version of TikTok, generated more than $274 billion worth of product sales in the app in 2023, up 60% year-over-year. 

For context, TikTok users spent around $4 billion in the app, in total, in the same period.

You can see, then, why TikTok is continuing to push its in-stream shopping elements. And while some users are now complaining that the app is getting too commercial, and adding too many shopping nudges in, with potentially hundreds of billions of dollars on the line, I suspect TikTok will weather those initial concerns. 

Enhanced live-stream chat is another small step in its expanded spending push.