Think Facebook's not going to become a major player in live-streaming? Think again - while Facebook came a little late to the party on the live-streaming trend, The Social Network is slowly working towards making their live-stream offering more appealing, tapping into the rising trend of live video content and moving to beat out the current leaders in the market.
Back in December, Facebook announced the expansion of their live-streaming option to all users, which was expanded again just last week with the announcement that all Android users would now also be able to live-broadcast on Facebook.
And now, Facebook's giving live-stream content a News Feed boost, with an update to their News Feed algorithm that'll see Facebook Live videos given more reach value when those videos are actually live, as compared to after the event. Facebook's research has found that people spend over 300% more time watching a Facebook Live video when it's broadcast live compared to after the fact, which is a significant variation, and one which they're keen to utilize to boost on-platform engagement with Live content.
And while the update makes logical sense, it's also another step in Facebook's wider plan to dominate live-streaming and become a bigger player in live events. And they might be on track to do just that.
Living in the Moment
In relative terms, Facebook's been a late-comer to the live-streaming trend. The resurgence of live video started with Meerkat, which shot to fame on the back of the app's launch during South by Southwest in March last year. That was soon followed by the launch of Twitter's Periscope, which has since gone on to to become the biggest player in the market, with around two million daily active users consuming the equivalent of 40 years of video content on the platform every 24 hours. And in the midst of all this, of all the hype around live-streaming and the rise of newer players like Blab, Facebook, too, has quietly been building up live-streaming option.
This upset some live-streaming devotees - they felt that the point of live-streaming was that it provided everyone with a chance to share their experiences, and restricting it to celebrities somewhat missed the point. But Facebook's strategy actually makes good sense - part of the problem with live-streaming is the noise-to-signal ration is quite high, the basic reason being that producing entertaining live content is difficult, even for seasoned professionals. By opening their platform to celebrities only - people with large followings who can attract an audience to their live-streaming tool - Facebook positioned their live-stream offering for greater success. If Facebook could get enough high-interest, celebrity content into their live-stream content feed, that would then raise interest, overall, in their live-stream offering, meaning that when the tool is eventually opened up to more users, there'd likely be more interest from both individuals and brands.
Think about it this way - on Periscope you can go live with your broadcast and it'll show up in the listing of other on-air content, amidst the various other broadcasters who are using the platform to share their message.
An example of Periscope's discovery listing
But imagine if a lot of those other broadcasters were celebrities, people bringing thousands, even tens of thousands of viewers who might then also see your content slotted alongside? That's a significant draw, and it moves, somewhat, towards making live-streaming a more attractive offering, both for entertainment and broadcasting purposes.
So are celebrities using Facebook Live? According to Facebook, "thousands of public figures have shared live videos with millions of fans". Facebook highlighted this again this week, showcasing a range of Live videos posted by celebrities at the Oscars.
Some of those broadcasts are getting millions of views - but then, of course, Facebook does have another significant advantage in this regard. While Periscope has 10 million user accounts (and they recently announced an update to have Periscope streams autoplay within Twitter feeds giving Periscope content significantly more reach potential), that possible reach pales in comparison to Facebook's 1.59 billion active users.
When you consider this, and that Facebook is now giving Live content a boost in News Feeds, it's not hard to imagine that Live content posted on Facebook will generate a lot more reach, and be more appealing to broadcasters overall than other platforms. What's more, Facebook Live videos remain in your News Feed forever, like any other post, while Periscope content still disappears after 24 hours (you can use third-party workarounds to keep your Periscope videos, but the native app doesn't save your content beyond that time frame).
While Periscope still has the momentum in the space - particularly around live events - it's not hard to imagine Facebook could take over. This is especially pertinent when you consider that Facebook's also looking to provide Live functionality to Pages, as opposed to just individuals, in the very near future.
Watch this space.
Broadcasting Beyond the Platform
Another interesting element to consider as the live-streaming battle heats up is what Facebook plans to do about TV. As has been documented by myself and others previously, Facebook, as part of its ongoing mission to be your sole source of all media input, is looking at ways it might be able to steal more attention - by taking over TV as we know it. A patent filed last year shows that Facebook has been experimenting with a system that would more directly integrate your Facebook experience with your TV viewing behavior.
As demonstrated in the above image, Facebook would be connected to your lounge room TV set, with a notifications box in the lower right corner of your screen alerting you to what your connections are watching, what they're saying about live TV events as they happen, and, quite possibly, notifying you about new content on Facebook. Like, for example, a new Live broadcast from your favorite celebrity or friend.
This would be a significant step for social TV more widely, but also for live-streaming, as it would give your broadcasts more potential reach, more audience attention - and it would make Facebook's Live offering more valuable as a result.
Of course, this is just a patent, there are a lot of patents filed that don't come to fruition, but the fact that Facebook is looking in this direction makes sense within their wider plans to dominate attention - and the idea that Live could play a part in this process also perfectly aligns with the platform's larger goals.
In essence, it really doesn't matter which platform 'wins' from a broadcaster or viewer perspective, the battle only has any major impact on the players themselves. But Twitter's putting a bigger emphasis on Periscope - they recently named Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour to the company's executive team, underlining the role the app might play in their future plans. To users, though, it's whomever serves their needs best. Sure, it might make more sense to put more focus on one or the other platform when you're looking to build a following, but really, either is good practice for how to do live content well and will serve a purpose regardless of the platform battles.
But you may just find that Facebook becomes the big player. If Facebook keeps making incremental shifts in their Live strategy, little upgrades and moves and de-stabilizes the hold of other players, you could see The Social Network coming out on top.
While live-streaming more widely is an important trend to be aware of, be aware, too, of the potential of all the major players - of which, Facebook is undoubtedly now one.