It’s Not Facebook Live, It’s Live TV

By Jason George, CEO, Telescope, Inc.

Jason George - CEO, Telescope IncWith the advent of Facebook Live, we as technology providers have found ourselves at a crucial inflection point within the content creation ecosystem. Content owners now have the technology and means to make professional content and see it distributed on a worldwide scale across a platform with a user base. In this new era that transcends television, what does it mean mean for how content is made, distributed, interacted with, and lastly – but most importantly – monetized?

With Facebook Live, streams become immediately available and instantly promotable. It’s simple and straightforward – turn on your phone and press record, or interface your camera system into the social network with basic, affordable production technologies. As always, the quality of content still reigns supreme – we’re seeing that good content is quickly separated from average content to an increasing degree due to the feedback loop amongst the audience (comments and reactions in the conversation) being much faster. With these metrics readily available and built in to the platform, content owners can see in real time how people are interacting with content and what’s trending – then adjust their content instantly to better meet the needs of their viewers. So, great content will only get better as the broadcast goes on, ensuring that audiences stay connected and tuned in.

How can the platform best be used? From what we’ve seen, it’s a great place thus far for media companies, brands, and especially talent and influencers – as evidenced by Facebook’s recent signing of $50 million worth of Facebook Live contracts with celebrities and digital publishers. They all have one thing in common – transparency and exclusive access. For example, recently, The New York Times did a Facebook Live stream from the offices of one of their editors during a pitch meeting – viewers were able to watch the decision-making process unfold in real time as journalists ping-ponged ideas to their editor. Other outlets, such as Buzzfeed, famously went the other direction and offered a different sort of entertainment – live broadcasting how many rubber bands they could wrap around a watermelon before it exploded. At the time, it almost hit one million views – all in real-time. On the talent front, we recently worked with pop group Fifth Harmony to launch their album via Facebook Live. Said and done, the video tallied 2.5m views. This momentum will continue: per Socialbakers, a social media metrics firm, 44% of Facebook’s top 500 pages post at least a single video to Facebook Live – which is up 11% from January of this year.

Fifth Harmony

Fifth Harmony

Now, everyone wants millions of views of course, but how do we contextualize it? When we look at the Fifth Harmony results, for example, there were 130k reactions, 3.5k shares, and 39,000 comments. While those numbers are impressive, when the amount of Facebook fans they have is factored in – approximately seven million – the numbers have additional value, as this would indicate that a significant number of their fanbase watched or engaged with their content to drive others in their network to watch. That’s a big deal. In addition to the live stream, there’s a meaningful VOD component that’s available after the live broadcast ends. This is crucial for the fans and viewers that weren’t able to tune in. From the work we’ve done in the space, we know that VOD audiences usually make up around two-thirds of total views – which is another huge addressable market and makes a strong argument for a paid media buy to complement the live stream by “boosting” the post.

So, we’ve seen that the engagement is there and the audiences are flocking to their favorite content, but what’s lacking are two things – monetization and discovery. Discovery will become an increasingly larger focus, as there still is not an effective solution for notifying new audiences that there is content on-air that might interest them. Distributors will need to find ways to reach these viewers, drive tune-in, and better factor personal preferences into the content presented to consumers.

With engagement taken care of and the discovery problem addressed, it will be easier to solve the issue of monetization – live, real time advertising will be easier to execute and will have a huge value. Looking at Facebook specifically, there will be more direct ways through the Facebook API to target people who have engaged with live video content. According to an IAB online video study via Nielsen, message recall is 40% online vs the 20% inherent to telelvision – so already, the audiences is more primed on an online platform versus a traditional one. For example, if there’s a call to action in the live stream around a certain advertiser – say, a nationally-recognized insurance company is integrated into the content and throws out a Call-To-Action in the live stream saying that in the next fifteen minutes, everyone who comments will receive a discount on their insurance, the content owner and advertiser could then directly target those consumers. The same aforementioned poll also notes that brand recall was 50% vs. TV’s 27% – another big differentiator – and likeability of ads was 28% to 17%, respectively. On top of our hypothetical scenario, if the advertiser saw that there was a healthy amount of engagement, they’d be able to offer additional incentive (such as a bigger discount if more people comment) in real time to get more people to join in. It’s a new way of looking at real-time branded content that would feel natural to users and have great benefits for brands as well.

Although it’s still early days for Facebook Live, the ecosystem will rapidly develop ways that brands, content owners, and audiences alike can benefit from this new delivery platform. With the amount of engagement that audiences can have with their favorite talent and shows, the level of control that content creators can have over what they display, and the innovative manner in which advertisers can reach new audiences, soon this platform and others like it will be extremely competitive to the traditional guardians of content in broadcast and cable/satellite. Watch this space, literally.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at [email protected].

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