China’s live broadcast factories are dark. Now TikTok wants to open one in the United States

According to Information, Tic Tac plans to open studios in major cities, where creators can host shopping livestreams on the platform. The move follows the widespread addition and adoption in 2023 of TikTok Shop, the e-commerce element of the app.

If this idea sounds familiar, it may be because similar installations have has existed in China for years, including one in Wuhan operated by TikTok itself. Or maybe you remember YouTube Spaces, these large urban centers where, starting in 2012, content creators could use studios, equipment, post-production tools and training offered by YouTube, all for free. In total, 10 Spaces were opened with great fanfare in Berlin, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, São Paulo, Mumbai and Dubai.

The spaces were used for content creation and rented out for premieres, the Streamy Awards and even a episode of the Late Late Show with James Corden. But in 2020, they faced major challenges. They were expensive to maintain, and top creators no longer needed fancy equipment or a studio to make high-quality, high-performing videos. Additionally, YouTube had grown so large that Spaces could not keep up with the demand from creators who did I want to use them. Seven of these spaces were closed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and remain permanently closed. Since 2024, only the São Paulo, Mumbai and Dubai sites have been active.

The same fate may not be in store for TikTok’s new venture. After all, live streamers using TikTok Shop need a physical space where they can showcase and store their products.

But when other elements of content creation are considered, these installations seem like more trouble than they’re worth. Information reports that TikTok wants brands to be able to send product samples directly to the studio for creators to use and possibly film. But most top creators already receive branded packages directly or through their management agencies. Additionally, TikTok has not yet determined how it will financially support this new venture. Information reports that internal discussions revolved around charging creators a fee for using the space. So, will creators be able to store their inventory in Spaces overnight, or will they have to lug it around with them every day?

Then there is the question of demand. According to InformationTikTok plans to be able to host “dozens of creators per day” in these physical studios, which, to be frank, is a paltry number given that there are more than a million active creators on the platform, according to some estimates.

Perhaps most worrying is the prospect of dozens of people crammed into rooms, hawking plastic waste that no one needs as our planet overheats. Video footage from China’s live-streaming factories is dark, heartbreaking voids of humanity. Fittingly, TikTok plans to open its first studio in Los Angeles, a city all too familiar with the manipulation of reality for profit.

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