So as some people (ahem) have been predicting, the social networks are ready to start becoming TV networks. It’s happening right now via Facebook, which is using Facebook Live to broadcast “Live From E!”, a Facebook-optimized version of a show currently available on their web site.
But “Live from E!” is just a tease. The real reveal will come a few weeks from now, when Facebook is rumored to be announcing the ability to broadcast high quality HD video via Live. That means networks will be able to get on Facebook and pretty much broadcast new shows, live, to a potential audience of over 1.5 billion users.
Facebook, of all sources, might actually make live TV cool again. There’s an exclusivity to live that’s missing from the everything-on-demand world. Miss it and you’re SOL. No second chances.
The people who caught the broadcast get to chat about it, to have opinions about it, to gloat about it. And if you missed it, you’re going to make sure you’re around the next time it comes on. Sort of how you used to make sure to be home on Thursday nights to catch “Friends” and “Seinfeld” along with everyone else.
The old water cooler.
The New Facebook Live
There are many possibilities for the new Facebook Live.
Networks could use their live Facebook shows to promote existing programs—talk shows that highlight stars of their current series, behind-the-scenes looks, even live variety shows. (We’ll leave the programming decisions to the experts.)
One thing we know Facebook Live will provide is copious amounts of data on who the viewers are, what else they watch, what brands they like, where they live, where they travel, who their friends are, what they’ve watched to completion and what they’ve abandoned after a few minutes.
What’s more, Facebook will know this on an individual level, not a household one. Which adds a heretofore unattainable level of audience data to their feedback.
This data is valuable to networks for four main purposes:
- Audience building/retention – Networks can target users to grow audiences for new shows or strengthen the bonds with audiences for existing ones
- Programming decisions – Networks can use the data to make high-level programming decisions and to decide which content to acquire
- Advertising targeting – Advertisers can reach specific audience segments via Facebook advertising, while the same data can help bolster demographic stats for existing shows.
- Recommendations – Networks can see patterns and determine which shows to recommend to viewers.
The question now is what does Facebook do after Live? Will they start showing scripted series, either directly from the networks or (in the networks worst nightmares) their own creations?
We think that Facebook will work within the system to allow viewers to use their Facebook credentials to authenticate their pay-TV subscriptions and then watch existing network shows, via their MVPD.
Given Facebook’s value as a promotional vehicle, this set-up makes the most sense: networks will pay to run dark posts in the Facebook feeds of viewers they feel are most likely to watch their shows and if those viewers can then actually tune in to the live or VOD version of the show, everyone wins.
The next few weeks will be very interesting as we await Facebook’s actual announcement around live TV and watch to see what (if anything) they are planning to introduce for the upfronts.