Facebook's big video move: Better late than never

Facebook has reportedly signed contracts with nearly 140 media companies and celebrities globally to create video content for its live-streaming service, according to a report by Wall Street Journal.

This move is a bid to compete with the likes of Google’s YouTube and is valued to be as high as US$50 million.

Some partners which have jumped on board include CNN, the New York Times as well as digital publishers such as Vox Media, food outfit Tastemade, Mashable, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post.

The social media giant has also engaged the likes of celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay, comedian Kevin Hart, NFL quarterback Russell Wilson and Deepak Chopra.

In a statement to Marketing, Justin Osofsky, VP, global operations & media partnerships at Facebook said that the program is still in its beta stages for a relatively small number of partners including a broad range of content types from regions around the world.

Facebook announced in March that it is still testing a myriad of ways to support partners as they experiment with the Facebook Live feature.

“As part of this early test program we're working with these partners to offer temporary financial support to encourage experimentation with this new format,” Osofsky said.

Osofsky added that members of the beta program were chosen on a variety of factors. This includes partners with existing capabilities to create content for live programming and those who had already found some early success with the feature.

Public figure partners who showed an early interest going live via the mentions app was also brought on board, along with others who have relevant use-cases for live such as breaking news and personality driven Q&As.

We wanted to invite a broad set of partners so we could get feedback from a variety of different organisations about what works and what doesn't.

According to Ryan Lim, principal consultant & founding partner of QED Consulting, this is a great hedging move for Facebook as it is late into the game with early dominant players such as YouTube.

“Not only is it timely, it is necessary in order for the social media giant to maintain its position as a social and content publisher,” Lim said.

To Samyukta Yatish, client solutions director, VML Singapore, the move does not come as a surprise, especially with Facebook’s proven record of investing effort into what it refers to as “thumb-stopping” creative.

“In Singapore, Facebook’s Creative Shop has begun their journey by creating and encouraging good Ad creative on the platform, and video content partnerships seem like a sensible step in the same direction,” Yatish said.

What does this mean for the industry?

Lim added that having such a move will not only allow it to compete with YouTube but also concurrently keep other video competitors at bay.

“If it sat back and did nothing to help generate more quality content for Facebook Live, the feature would die a natural death as the actual number of quality content created is still extremely low if left alone,” Lim said.

Facebook is currently caught in the centre with YouTube above, and other live social video platforms such as Snapchat and Twitter’s Periscope catches up in the game from below.

For Sven Huberts, regional managing director of Isobar Asia Pacific, Facebook’s initiative will now allow brands to add ‘live’ capabilities to their content creating efforts and give them more options.

How many brands can and will take advantage of this remains to be seen. YouTube has offered live streaming for some time and few brands to my knowledge take advantage of it.

He believes it would impact the industry in the form of media buying and advertising, and has the added benefit of maintaining engagement on the platform itself. Partnering with big names will also act like a ‘demonstration effect’ for all the smaller content creators.

“Like YouTube pre-rolls, Facebook will be able to deliver even more targeted ads (given their superior user information). This is a revenue driver for Facebook and also probably a revenue driver for the video creator,” Huberts said.

What can we expect?

Yatish is interested in seeing how Facebook scales this move into live streaming, pointing out that influencers still have no monetary incentive to put content on Facebook unless there are existing deals with advertisers to create branded content.

The game will change when Facebook starts sharing advertising revenue with Influencers the way YouTube currently does.

This may be the beginning of a play to get credibly into a more serious content business, according to Huberts.

“Although it’s not limited to live events, Social TV has always been talked about and makes a lot of sense for shows socially popular shows, like sports (which is Live) or Game of Thrones (which is not but people love to talk about),” Huberts added.

Photo-sharing community Instagram, also owned by Facebook, recently announced its passing of more than 500 million users – more of 300 million who are active on the platform. It also added the expansion of its global reach, with more than 80% of its users being based outside the United States.