TikTok Sale: ByteDance Partners With Oracle

Tik Tok app
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

ByteDance has selected Oracle as its partner for a deal to keep TikTok operating in the U.S., a source familiar with the talks confirms to The Hollywood Reporter.

The decision comes as ByteDance has rejected a bid by Microsoft that earlier this summer was seen as the likely option for the company as it looked to avoid a shutdown of the popular social media app amid increased tensions between the U.S. and China. Microsoft confirmed that its bid had been rejected in a statement on its corporate blog on Sunday night. "We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok's users, while protecting national security interests," the company wrote. "To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas."

Microsoft was seen as the favorite to move forward in negotiations with ByteDance given its deep pockets, which would have helped it address the security concerns that led President Donald Trump to require the business to be sold if it wanted to continue to operate in the U.S. Walmart had planned to team up with Microsoft on the bid but was not mentioned in the company's statement.

But ByteDance, facing a short timeline to strike a deal, ultimately felt that Oracle — which has curried favor with Trump — was the best partner to address the security concerns that have plagued the app since it first came to the U.S. in 2018. According to the source, Oracle is being brought on board as a tech partner and not as an outright buyer of TikTok's U.S. business. It's unclear whether Oracle will acquire a share in TikTok as a result of the partnership.

Representatives for TikTok and ByteDance declined to comment. A spokesperson for Oracle did not respond to a request for comment.

The news follows an Aug. 6 executive order from Trump that called for TikTok to be banned in the U.S. if ByteDance didn't sell its American operations. Trump has cited national security concerns as the reason for the ban, arguing that ByteDance could give the Chinese government access to data from its U.S. users. The company was given a mid-September deadline to divest of the business.

TikTok has fought those claims, saying that it stores American user data on serves based out of the U.S. and Singapore. The company also has sued Trump, arguing in its complaint that the ban is "a pretext for furthering the President's broader campaign of anti-China rhetoric in the run-up to the U.S. election."

China complicated ByteDance's ability to strike a deal when, in late August, it issued new export rules that would prevent TikTok from selling the technology that powers the algorithm behind its addictive "For You" feed, which learns about user behavior over time in order to serve up the most relevant videos.

Though the goal of a deal with Oracle is to keep TikTok operating in the U.S., but the Trump administration still has to agree that the new arrangement addresses his concerns about the handling of U.S. user data. Tech analyst Daniel Ives is skeptical. In a Sunday night note, he wrote, "TikTok's days in the U.S. likely are numbered."

TikTok first came to the U.S. in August 2018 after ByteDance acquired competitor Musical.ly and merged the two apps. Today, the social video app has 100 million monthly active users in the U.S. and has minted stars out of young creators including Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae. The app has also become a powerful platform for debuting new music and helped popularize Lil Nas X’s "Old Town Road."

The app's fate in the U.S. is being determined without the company's newly appointed American CEO. Disney veteran Kevin Mayer, who accepted a job running TikTok in late May, announced his resignation on Aug. 26. Vanessa Pappas, general manager of TikTok in North America, Australia and New Zealand, is serving as the company's interim CEO.

This article originally appeared in THR.com.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.