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How to Create Professional Live Event Streams for Facebook Live

This article makes the business case for using streaming Facebook Live and includes a video demo showing how to create professional-quality Facebook Live streams using Telestream Wirecast.
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In this article I’ll cover the what, the why, and the how of streaming to Facebook Live for online video professionals. What makes Facebook Live particularly interesting as a streaming destination compared to others? In particular, I’ll look at how to stream to Facebook using the Live API, in a quick video demo on streaming to Facebook Live using Telestream Wirecast.

A Brief History of Facebook Live

Facebook Live is really only about a year old, which means other platforms have a considerable head start on it, but obviously it has an 800-pound gorilla behind it, so it's come far fast. In August 2015, it was opened up to celebrities. At that point, only celebrities and verified celebrity accounts could stream to it using their phones. I think Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was one of the first, if not the first streamer to Facebook Live (Figure 1, below).

Figure 1. Key points in Facebook Live’s brief history

In January 2016, Facebook opened up the door to ordinary account-holders. Between January and March, they started rolling out live streaming to all Facebook accounts in the U.S. and the U.K. Pretty soon, if you were a user in one of those countries, you would start seeing the ability to stream live using your phone.

Then, jn May, Facebook approached Telestream and some other partners to introduce their Live API, so that other third-party software vendors and coders and streamers and switchers could start streaming to Facebook Live. They wanted to launch with some partners, some people who were known for streaming and have good products in that space. We at Telestream were very pleased to be included at the outset. The API launched in June. It’s been a fun ride ever since, because a lot of people have shown interest in Facebook Live as a platform. Now, anyone can stream from any device or any computer or encoder, as long as you tie in with the Facebook API.

Why does this matter? In early 2016 at F8, Facebook’s annual developer’s conference, the company estimated that half of all internet traffic was video-based--mobile traffic in particular. As early as 2018, according to the latest estimates, you're going to see 70% of internet traffic being video-based.

Study after study shows that video is the most engaging type of content. Worldwide, viewers are watching about 3.4 hours of online video per day (Figure 2, below, shows the breakdown). In the U.S., the average is closer to 4 hours a day. That's a lot of time spent watching videos across all devices. That's a sixth of your life.

Figure 2. The average viewer worldwide watches video 3.4 hours per day.

Why Facebook Live?

There are a lot of places to stream to (Figure 3, below). Facebook Live is far from the only game in town. I’m not recommending that you should stream only to Facebook Live, or to any other single platform, for that matter. A lot of these platforms have their own advantages. Some are running on other companies' systems on this list. This is just a list of partners we work with and destinations you can send your video to.

Figure 3. Lots of streaming options

For example, there are a lot of advantages to going with other companies shown in Figure 3, and for certain strategic reasons you should consider going for more than one at a time. YouTube Live, for example, is a huge destination for video. The most recent figure I’ve seen estimated that every minute, 45 hours of video footage are being uploaded to YouTube. Facebook is hardly going to be the last word in live streaming, but it’s definitely competing in an arena where there’s a lot of competition.

Why should you choose Facebook? The most obvious reason is that one in seven people on Earth are using Facebook, with a billion users logging on every day. That right there immediately makes it attractive to anyone who wants an audience. It's got a massive audience plus built-in social and connection and sharing tools.

The other reason you might want to choose Facebook Live is because, anecdotally, some people are already using it for streaming and finding that they get a lot more engagement from customers and viewers than they do on other platforms. They’ve tried some of the other platforms and there’s a reason they're sticking with Facebook at the moment.

Why else would you choose it? Sharing power (Figure 4, below). Right now, Facebook not only gives you access to a large audience, but live streaming on Facebook reportedly gets more priority in the algorithms for sharing. No one outside the company knows Facebook’s exact algorithms, but reliable estimates right now are coming in around 6-10x in terms of the amount of weight that a live-stream post will get, as opposed to say a natively uploaded video or an image or a YouTube embedded video.

Figure 4. Facebook Live sharing power

The other reason to choose Facebook is they're going all in on it. If you watched the World Series in October, but you may have noticed several ads promoting streaming to Facebook Live ads between innings. Also, if you're in certain cities around the world and see billboards or buses going by, you will see vehicles like the one shown in Figure 5 (below) driving around.

Figure 5. Facebook is going all in on promoting Facebook Live.

Facebook is really trying to encourage more people to think of it as a video platform. That can't be said for all other streaming platforms. They're not necessarily getting as much attention or at least as much marketing budget. Promotion doesn’t guarantee adoption, of course, but Facebook Live is unique among streaming platforms in that it's got an enormous backer behind it that wants it to succeed.

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