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The Networks Need Data, And Why That Matters To Facebook.

An Upfronts/New Fronts Story


So what’s the word on the street during the 2016 upfronts and new fronts? Data.

That’s pretty much the only word you’ll hear during those sessions. yadda yadda DATA yadda yadda DATA yadda yadda DATA.  That’s because (as the industry;s newest cliché goes) data is the new gold and everyone wants to prove that they’ve got the deepest vein.

But here’s the catch: none of the networks really have a whole lot of data. Especially the TV networks. There are all sorts of data sets out there that that they can combine with the bits and pieces of data they have, but there’s also an elephant in the room. A very, very large elephant with a hoodie and a giant blue “F.”

That’s right: Facebook. Facebook has very granular data on over 1.5 billion users. It knows what brands they like, what shows, where they went on vacation, even what restaurant they ate at last Saturday. It also knows all their friends… and all their friends on Instagram and WhatsApp because, well, they own those too.

As we’ve noted previously, Facebook has the power to help TV networks identify their viewers and learn about their habits. The MVPDs and the networks won’t make nice long enough for the MVPDs to give networks the data they need to fuel advanced advertising and learn more about their audiences. That’s not going to change any time soon. But Facebook has that sort of data and then some, and if the networks and the social network can work a deal, both sides would benefit tremendously.

Easier said than done, as Facebook still heavily guards the walled garden, and the only way data gets out is via their Atlas network, and then only to mobile. Facebook has recently promised to share anonymized data about users with advertisers that allows them to slice and dice audiences. Sharing that data with networks would be the next step, especially data around the networks’ own audiences.

That’s a big step though and Facebook has other tricks up its sleeve, namely Facebook Live.

Turning It Up With Facebook Live 

The potential synergy between television and Facebook is about to get even more real as Facebook turns up Facebook Live, it’s new live streaming service.

Originally served up to celebrities and other people of note, Live provides networks with a brave new way to promote their programming, via live promotions with the stars, backstage peeks (table reads and wardrobe) and, quite likely, live clips.

It’s that last part that’s really clever.

All Facebook has to do is put a link up after say, a 10 minute real-time clip of the most recent episode of Big Bang Theory on Live that says “watch the rest on CBS now” and they’ll push millions of users straight into the network’s waiting arms.

And not just any traffic—live traffic. Real time viewers are going to be increasingly valuable to advertisers as (a) they are becoming scarce the more popular time-shifting gets, and (b) they are one of the few remaining ways to reach a mass audience all-at-once. An ad sent to an audience watching on DVR and VOD may get millions of impressions over the course of a week, but they’re not all happening at the same time in the same environment. That distinction is important to advertisers and they’ll pay big money to capture it.

So if Facebook Live can drive viewers to watch more real-time TV, that’s a big win for the networks, one they’ll gladly pay Facebook to enable. If Facebook gives them some of that anonymized user data? Even better.

More #CreatedWith

Facebook Live is also part of Facebook’s overall drive to lure #Creators away from YouTube by offering them larger audiences and (potentially) greater profits. (That latter part is still being figured out. A recent report in Verge had Facebook considering a tip jar. Ummm… no. Creators need to make real money.)

What Live can do is (a) help existing creators build audiences while creating deeper bonds with their existing ones. The ability to interact with fans live is a killer feature for #Creators who rely on the intimate connections they have with their audiences. In addition, like Periscope and YouNow, Live will likely give birth to a new group of #Creators who’ll bring new and authentic voices to an audience that’s open to hearing them… live.

Branded Content Gold Rush

Facebook promises to make it easy for brands and #Creators to connect around branded content—they’re looking for ways to help #Creators make money without having to resort to interruptive advertising. Branded content, which is proving more and more popular with all audiences should provide the perfect outlet for this.

What’s Next

As Facebook continues its drive to dominate the television industry, it faces critical decisions about it’s data. Facebook can try and go it on it’s own, creating an alternative to the TV Industrial Complex. Or, it can work with the networks to provide an alternate source of data, helping to propel the industry forward. As the upfronts and new fronts have made clear, data is the one thing the networks desperately need and if Facebook can supply it to them, then everybody wins. It’s a key part of what we’re calling Social TV 2.0  and we suspect you’ll soon be hearing a lot about it.


  1. […] As we noted earlier this week, the networks desperately need data and Roku is rapidly becoming an excellent source of viewership data. In an implicit acknowledgement of Roku’s expanding role, Viacom is going to be working with Roku to provide the data to fuel an addressable advertising program. […]