What Happened to Facebook Live?
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How Does Facebook Live Compare to Other Livestreaming Platforms?
Facebook Live launched in August 2015 to much fanfare. Livestreaming allowed brands (and later all users in April 2016) to instantly connect with followers. Live was touted as a valuable tool for influencers, celebrities, brands, and media publishers to publish real time video content on Facebook for the first time. Brands started to use Facebook to stream live events and other video content and users quickly adopted livestreaming to publish life updates to friends in their network.
During the initial launch, Facebook sourced a wealth of high-quality video content to bring attention to the new streaming service. Facebook did this by securing lucrative partnerships with major publishers, celebrities, and influencers. Fun features like Live Reactions (animated likes, hearts, and smiley faces) and Q&A in real time helped to cultivate an interactive experience for fans.
What Happened to Facebook Live?
Facebook’s leadership was open about the company’s strategy to go all-in on Live, focusing many product development resources into expanding the product. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company made a big decision to ”shift a lot of our video efforts to focus on Live, because it is this emerging new format; not the kind of videos that have been online for the past five or ten years."
Facebook Live hit its two year anniversary in April 2018. Fidji Simo, Facebook’s VP of Product, shared some key stats in a recent status update:
- 3.5 billion Facebook Live broadcasts
- Live videos generate 6x more engagement than regular videos
- 100s of millions of individual users have posted live updates
- 2 billion users have watched a livestream
Despite these high numbers, Facebook is competing in a crowded space. YouTube continues to dominate video streaming (live and prerecorded) and influencers have gravitated towards Instagram Live to reach a millennial audience. This prompts the question: what happened to Facebook Live?
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Newer Facebook Live Features
Facebook has continued to roll out new Live features - but many of them aren’t particularly groundbreaking. Aside from adding the ability to rewind and minor technical tweaks to improve the creator experience, Facebook has stayed in the shadow of the multitude of social media sites that offer live updates (Snapchat, Instagram) or specialize in livestreaming (Twitch, Periscope).
- Rewind - Facebook now allows users to rewind livestreams, even if the broadcast is still in progress. Prior to adding this functionality, viewers could only rewind Live videos after the stream was finished. Facebook added the Live rewind feature at the request of users. The ability to rewind live content on YouTube and even traditional television is already ingrained in user behavior, so this was an natural feature to roll out.
- Cross-Posting - Facebook Business accounts now have the ability to post a single live video across multiple Pages. The livestream will appear as an original post on each Page. Brands can see an aggregate tally of the views across all pages to measure video performance. This feature is ideal for large, complex organizations that use Facebook marketing to promote various media publications or regional locations.
- Persistent Stream Keys - Professional publishers frequently have multiple collaborators working on a single Facebook Livestream, which might contain several videos spliced together. In the past, each video segment of the stream would have a separate stream key, which complicated the collaboration process and required tedious coordination between collaborators. Now, each steam has a single permanent key, which helps team members coordinate as they post a single livestream.
Competitors in Livestreaming
Facebook Live is competing against a host of livestreaming options, many of which are very established and niche. Livestreaming has become a virtual arms race where each social media platform strives to surpass the others.
- Twitch - A platform focused on video game streaming which hosts more than 2 million monthly streamers. Twitch has a large marketing ecosystem which allows its creators to monetize their following through virtual tipping, affiliate revenue, and paid subscriptions from superfans. Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014 for $970 million cash.
- Live.me - A standalone livestreaming and social networking app which allows users to share and view live videos. Viewers can comment, subscribe, and send gifts to video creators. Live.me originated from the Chinese company Cheetah Mobile and has been in the news lately due to predators preying on children through the app.
- YouTube Live - YouTube is the established leader in the online video space. The platform introduced livestreaming and mobile streaming within the last year, staying in line with competing social networks. YouTube Live is a natural extension of the already booming community of publishers, influencers, and fans.
- Instagram Live - Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has been rapidly adding features to its roster to improve the stickiness of its livestreaming services. Instagram Live also allows creators to videochat with viewers in real time, film boomerangs, and use filters, among other features. The Explore page has a Top Live section to aid the discovery of new live content. Instagram Stories draws in over 200 million daily active users, making it a favorite of users and influencers alike.
Virtual Reality Viewing Experience
Facebook Live is potentially pivoting from broadcast into virtual reality. Facebook debuted Oculus Venues in October 2017, which allows viewers to stream live events using a virtual reality (VR) headset like the Oculus Go or Samsung Gear. Much of the programming on Facebook’s Oculus Venues is exclusive to Facebook users.
The range of recent VR campaigns includes:
- Pro Baseball: Major League Baseball (MLB) games. In March 2018, Facebook signed deal with MLB to exclusively stream 25 games during the year.
- Pro Basketball: National Basketball Association (NBA) games. Basketball content is sourced from the NBA League Pass, the NBA’s official streaming service which allows viewers to watch games outside of their local viewing area. League Pass offers zoomed in, close-up footage of the live action of the game.
- Live 360: Creators use a specialized 360 camera to offer a more immersive video experience
- Concerts: Vance Joy’s concert at the Red Rocks Arena in Boulder, CO available for livestream
Facebook has plans to stream additional types of media, including stand-up comedy and classic films. The social network might be a pioneer in popularizing VR technology, which is prominent primarily in the gaming industry. Virtual reality is an emerging technology and Facebook appears to be ahead of the curve compared to competitors.
Crimes Caught on Facebook Live
During Facebook Live’s launch, Zuckerberg said “We built this big technology platform so we can go and support whatever the most personal and emotional and raw and visceral ways people want to communicate are as time goes on.” This turned out to be prescient, as a small subsection of users have used Live to broadcast heinous crimes with disturbing frequency.
Broadcasting violent crimes is against Facebook’s rules, but like most user-generated content, it’s difficult to enforce. The social media giant received criticism after several high-profile crimes were streamed live and remained on the platform for hours before being removed by administrators. It became clear that Facebook was severely understaffed -- they’ve hired 3,000 additional moderators within the last year and currently employ 7,500+ moderators to review content posted by users.
Facebook has responded by hiring more moderators to take down illegal content. Even with these additional efforts to squelch illegal Live content, fully removing abusive content can be like playing whack-a-mole. Facebook’s reputation has been negatively impacted and it’s hard to predict how this will play out in the long term.
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The Future of Facebook Live
Are Facebook Live’s offerings enough to keep the attention of users in a very crowded space? Live’s success depends on continuing to innovate to keep the attention of social media users and providing tools needed for creators to thrive. The support of influencers is a key to Facebook Live’s continued success; when influencers use a platform regularly, they bring audiences with them. Perhaps Facebook Live isn’t offering anything unique enough to gain a dedicated base of influencers who are regularly posting to the platform.
In comparison, Twitch is a livestreaming platform that has become tremendously popular among gaming influencers. This popularity can be partially attributed to the fact that Twitch provides influencers with methods to monetize their channels via paid user subscriptions, superchats, and affiliate revenue.
Facebook Live may need to adopt similar influencer tools to entice influencers to use Facebook Live over other livestreaming platforms. If influencers can monetize their Facebook Live content easily, they’re likely to choose Facebook Live and their audiences are likely to follow and adopt the feature. More broadly, Facebook may need to meet and exceed the features offered by other Livestreaming platforms to succeed in the long term.
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June 6, 2018 By Mediakix Team