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IBC '19: Facebook Shows Live and Interactive Tools for Publishers

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Facebook is intent on becoming the next big online video platform and says the answer lies in live.

“Video is an inherently social experience and live has shown how social a video experience can be,” said Erin Connolly, product manager for social video at Facebook, in an IBC keynote alongside Jens-Uwe Bornemann, the company's director of media partnerships for Central and Eastern Europe.

Facebook used the event to unveil a slew of new features around live video designed to help creators and publishers analyze, iterate, and monetize content.

The execs outlined how they are now growing partnerships with broadcasters and content owners by offering new tools and a route to new audiences and monetization.

“Facebook is all about building connectivity, building community, and giving people meaningful ways to interact with each other,” Connolly asserted. “We are focused on bringing people front and center of a video experience.”

Since Facebook Watch rolled out internationally in the past year it has attracted 2 billion active users a month—effectively all of the social network’s users (according to Statistica, Facebook counted 2.38 billion monthly active users at July 2019).

The platform has 140 million daily visitors who spend an average of 26 minutes in the Watch tab.

“Watch is our dedicated destination for video on Facebook. It is not passive consumption. We’re not looking for lean back. We want video that encourages people to make conversations. It is meant to be a personalized video experience,” Connolly said.

She stressed that Facebook is an open platform and welcomes any content from any page—meaning professionally produced video from digital publishers, traditional media, social influencers, or celebrities.

“UGC has a better home on Facebook news feed or Facebook stories,” Connolly said. “For live, any content that pulls users into a story or encourages interactions works well.”

Unlike YouTube, “Everything we do is about connection, community, and interactivity. With Watch, users can go deeper into video with creators and communities.”

Video doesn’t have to be live as long as the interaction  is. A recently launched application, Watch Party, is a way for people to view pre-recorded videos on Facebook together in real-time. Users are eight times more likely to comment on a Watch Party than a standard video, she said.

“We are really excited by the traction for it. The content creator gets feedback in real-time. They can use polls to encourage users to be part of the experience.”

Facebook entices publishers with a range of monetization options including ad breaks (pre- and mid-roll) for videos longer than three minutes. Ad break usage has tripled in the past year, she said.

“To kickstart the ecosystem, we’ve set up sustainable business models where all stakeholders earn money from content."

Other monetization options include monthly subscriptions to access content from partners and branded content. Sponsors can find content partners to via a tool that matches brands with content creators on the platform.

Original commissions are a piece of the puzzle, too—mainly to tempt professional media organizations to use the platform. “We invest in originals to showcase and inspire, and for others to test our products,” Bornemann said.

“You could have a predictive schedule so people know when to come multiple times a week or leverage live to take fans behind the scenes of an event or a new season that’s landing on traditional media."

"Facebook is a complementary layer to TV properties,” Connolly insisted. “We are fine with driving traffic to a broadcaster or production company’s own sites. Posts on Facebook can help drive subs to broadcaster catch-up TV apps. They can innovate around pilots and drive audiences to linear."

German broadcaster Prosieben, for example, simulcast the first 22 minutes of the opening season of The Voice on Facebook and garnered 1.3 million views. “It acted as a reminder that the show was now back on air,” Bornemann said.

New Broadcast Publishing Tools for Live

Based on feedback from broadcasters, Facebook has released a number of new features that it says improve and simplify the live publishing experience.

Among them: Publishers can now broadcast a live video only to Page admins and editors, making it easier to test new production setups, interactive features, and show formats.

Trimming enables publishers to trim the beginning and end of a Live video. Publishers often start a Live stream before the action begins, and this "stand by" slate can make the critical first seconds of the recorded video less engaging.

The maximum length of Facebook Live videos is now increased to eight hours when broadcasting via the Live API. Thee previous limit was four hours. NASA used this capability to broadcast an eight-hour spacewalk, but it’s of more daily use for streaming sports or music events.

Publishers can now use apps that broadcast simultaneously to more than one online streaming service, making it easier to reach audiences across apps and services by simulcasting via the Live API.

Watch Party has also been given a refresh, gaining the ability to schedule an event in advance and view on-demand replays. Facebook added metrics for minutes viewed and the total number of unique users that watched at least 60 seconds.

Creator Studio is the network’s one-stop tool for managing, monetizing, and measuring content across Facebook Pages and Instagram. Updates to Creator Studio include a metric showing which videos are driving returning viewers to a Page (previously, only the number of returning viewers was surfaced to Pages in aggregate); a new distribution metric that gives a score to each video’s performance, and support for 13 new languages for auto-captioning, including Arabic and Vietnamese.

Photo: Robert Ambrose, High Green Media; Erin Connolly, Product Manager, Social Video, Facebook; Jens-Uwe Bornemann, Director of Media Partnerships, Central and Eastern Europe, Facebook (Credit: Adrian Pennington)

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