Facebook has been full of subtle updates recently, subtle in terms of the fanfare they have received but all with the potential to change the media landscape forever.
Exciting as these recent updates are, the update with the most potential for causing significant change over the next two decades, in my opinion, is not in native advertising, nor in 360 videos, it is Facebook Live Video.
Back in April, Facebook redesigned its app giving Live Video more prominence than ever before. It was no surprise that Facebook would eventually encourage greater use of the Live Video feature given that it has yet to truly tap into digital video as a major revenue source, especially when you compare it to YouTube. You only need to look at how YouTube is continually monetising their platform or at the competition that Snapchat or even Periscope is offering to understand this is a rapidly growing market with huge potential. However given the sheer scale of the existing Facebook audience I would argue that the potential impact Live Video will have on the way we consume TV in the future is going to be huge.
Stage one of their Live Video plan allowed them to see how users would engage with the feature in a fairly organic environment. Stage two, as with anything on Facebook, focusses on how to make money from this feature. Advertisers bring money, but without pre-roll it is not an easy nor obvious market for them. So first and foremost Facebook needs to attract the publishers.
So how do you get a publisher to produce live video on a website other than their own negating their ability to sell advertising? Well, you pay them of course…
Earlier this week it was announced that Facebook has signed contracts with nearly 140 media companies and celebrities to create videos for its live-streaming service, in payments totalling more than $50 million USD. Below is a list of these ‘publishers’ in line for a payday:
Live video is another way to keep its audience of 1.65 billion monthly users engaged and the more engaged that audience is within the Facebook video environment, the greater the knock-on effect will be on traditional TV.
It is fairly ominous for TV that Facebook are currently paying celebrities, sports teams and musicians to produce and share more content. By suddenly giving these non-traditional publishers access to a significant audience it is giving the consumer more video than ever before. Mobile video consumption now sits at over 100 million hours daily and is increasing all the time. Early results show that the average user watches live video three times longer than other types of video of Facebook. Live videos are also exclusive to the Facebook Live platform so they are essentially owning anything that gets published.
In May, 44% of the top 500 Facebook pages maintained by media companies posted at least one live video on Facebook, up from 11% in January, according to Socialbakers analytics.
As more and more of these non-traditional publishers delve into the world of Live Video, more and more of Facebook’s active daily audience of 11 million Australians will be subscribing to receiving notifications when their favourite publishers, personalities or even brands are online.
Right now the process of receiving notifications when somebody is live can be a little convoluted. But as this becomes easier and more habitual, receiving up to 3 notifications a day from a broad range of publishers will have an inevitable and significant impact on the more traditional means of video consumption, in my opinion.
A great example of the unheralded power of Live Video happened earlier this year when two of Buzzfeed staffers took it upon themselves to explode a watermelon using elastic bands. This 44 minute-long video has now been viewed 10.8 million times, but most significantly at one point was being watched live by 807,000 people. To put that number into some perspective that’s higher than the peak audience for the Australia’s Got Talent Finale.
And it’s not just the ‘live’ element of these videos creating all the viewing hours. Once a live video is over, it is stored so Facebook users can watch it later. Who would watch a live video after it’s live you ask? Well you did, when you couldn’t help but laugh at Candace Payne losing her mind in the car after discovering the joys of a Chewbacca mask. This video has now been viewed over 157 million times.
It will be interesting to see how Facebook continue to monetise their Live Video feature. I would suggest it won’t be too long before publishers are paying Facebook for the privilege of Live Streaming on their platform rather than it being the other way around.
In terms of the actual impact it will have on the fragmenting TV space, we will have to see. The sheer variety and choice of live TV coming direct to the TV in your pocket (Facebook) will prove to be either its greatest success or biggest weakness. Live Video after all may not always produce the greatest quality video, while TV has the advantage and incentive to raise the bar in terms of producing high-quality content. They can also match Facebook in terms of sending push notifications to mobile to encourage views through their apps. However given that 11 million Australians currently use Facebook daily the potential for Live Video to shift viewer’s habits away from traditional TV is huge and not something which can be ignored.