Short-form video service recently Triller filed for an initial public offering in New York after a couple of failed attempts to go public last year.
The Los Angeles-headquartered TikTok competitor filed an S-1 Form with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month and within that filing, the company stated that it has seen more than 550 million user sign-ups since it launched its social media platform in 2015.
However, that user count has been questioned by app analytics firm Apptopia.
That figure is 87% lower than Triller’s own estimate.
As Apptopia’s data includes only mobile downloads, it’s possible that the remaining downloads took place on desktop devices. At the Google Play Store, the Triller app is listed as having “10M+” downloads, which means anywhere between 10 million and 50 million downloads.
In comments to TechCrunch, Triller maintained that its numbers are accurate.
This isn’t the first time that Triller’s user numbers have been questioned.
In 2020, following a Triller press release in which the company claimed to be “the number-one app worldwide in all categories” with a total of 250 million downloads, Apptopia estimated that Triller had, in fact, been downloaded 52 million times, a number roughly 80% lower than Triller’s own count.
As reported by TechCrunch, Triller responded to Apptopia’s numbers by threatening the latter with a lawsuit. Following talks coordinated by a mutual shareholder of both companies, Apptopia withdrew its report.
However, questions about its user numbers surfaced again in 2021, when Billboard reported that Triller’s claim of 26.5 million monthly active users (MAUs) was roughly double the actual figure. The news source attributed that assertion to “a source with direct knowledge of the situation.”
Triller’s CEO at the time, Mike Lu, responded to the Billboard report by announcing that the company would no longer be sharing its numbers of MAUs or DAUs (daily active users).
Lu also asserted that “there is no legal definition” of MAU/DAU.
“For example, if someone is trying to compare TikTok’s MAU/DAU to ours — which means they are saying we have the same definition of MAU/DAU — there is an inherent misunderstanding about Triller’s business and business model. It’s like trying to compare a fish and a bicycle.”
“[I]f someone is trying to compare TikTok’s MAU/DAU to ours — which means they are saying we have the same definition of MAU/DAU — there is an inherent misunderstanding about Triller’s business and business model. It’s like trying to compare a fish and a bicycle.”
Mike Lu, Triller
The latest report around Triller’s user numbers comes as the company prepares for its third attempt at an IPO in the past 18 months.
Its initial attempt involved a SPAC merger that would see the company merge with NASDAQ-listed SeaChange International, a company focused on digital advertising.
That deal was meant to be wrapped up by Q1 2022, but in June of that year, the company announced that it and SeaChange had “mutually agreed to terminate [our] Merger Agreement… as it is no longer possible to complete the merger prior to its termination date of June 30.”
The company quickly announced a new IPO plan that would see it list directly on the NASDAQ, and that it expected the flotation to happen by Q3 2022. Triller attributed the change in strategy to “global macroeconomic conditions.”
However, that plan also fell through. The company has since announced a third attempt at an IPO, this time via direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
In its S-1 filing for this latest IPO, the company acknowledged that it is “involved in lawsuits and other litigation matters that are expensive and time consuming, and, if resolved adversely, could harm our business, financial condition, or results of operations.”
In August of 2022, Sony Music Entertainment (SME) filed a lawsuit against Triller, alleging that the social media company had failed to make payments for use of SME’s music, as part of a 2016 licensing agreement.
In its court filings, SME said it had terminated the agreement with Triller after the latter had failed to make its monthly payments beginning in March of 2022. With the licensing agreement null and void, Triller’s continued use of SME-owned music constituted copyright infringement, the music company alleged.
In April of this year, Triller agreed to pay USD $4.57 million to SME, ending the breach-of-contract part of the legal dispute. However, SME continued with its legal action over alleged copyright infringement for the period following the termination of Triller’s licensing agreement.
That part of the conflict ended with a settlement between SME and Triller earlier this month, the terms of which were not immediately disclosed.
Triller is also facing a lawsuit from Universal Music Group (UMG), which alleged in a court filing in January that the social media company had not made payments under its licensing agreement for the prior three quarters. Like SME before it, UMG said it had terminated its agreement with Triller.
In August of 2022, the company was hit with a $28-million lawsuit by music producers Timbaland and Swiss Beatz, who alleged the company had missed payments to them on its acquisition of song battle brand Verzuz.
Triller settled that lawsuit. Although the financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, the parties reportedly said that the settlement “will increase the ownership stake given to the artists that Timbaland and Swizz Beatz brought to Triller as part of the original deal.”
The company is also facing a lawsuit by Phiture, a Germany-headquartered app services firm that Triller had partnered with. That lawsuit alleges that Triller owes Phiture more than $132,000 in missed payments.
The lawsuit alleged that Triller had defaulted on its payments to Phiture in September, 2021.Music Business Worldwide