Facebook has made no secret of its ambition to compete with live broadcasting apps like Periscope and Meerkat. The social network recently rolled out Facebook Live, its live-streaming video tool to smartphone users in 60 countries, and now it’s building on that service in a big way. A few of the new additions include a new video tab on Facebook’s mobile apps, exclusive content, and a bevy of new tools for broadcasters and viewers alike.
The new features are most visible on mobile devices, since that’s where most live-broadcasting apps live. In the coming weeks, archived and live streams will appear in a new video tab on Android and iOS for “a very small percentage” of users. The video tab replaces Messenger in the app, just in case there was ever cause to doubt Facebook’s oft-repeated promise to sever its core app’s ties with Messenger.
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The section will look a bit familiar to folks who’ve dabbled in Twitch or Periscope. It’s a swipeable, scrollable list of content demarcated by user, popularity, and topic. Videos from around the world that have gone viral on Facebook show up near the top, and below them, you’ll see recordings from the friends and pages you follow. There’s a search function so you can find videos by categories like “U.S. News” and “TV & Movies,” and a prominent “Go Live” button lets you contribute a broadcast of your own.
The changes on mobile are aimed at boosting Live’s visibility to everyday Facebook users, and they’re far from the only ones. On the web, a new, live map designates ongoing broadcasts around the world with clickable blue dots. Each has an “invite” button for inviting friends to watch along.
Changing how we view live broadcasts
In the coming weeks, the viewing and broadcasting experience will improve substantially. You’ll be able to limit your stream to specific Groups — think certain family members, friends, or users with a common interest — schedule future streams using Events, and tag your videos to help make them easier to find in in the new video tab.
A few other enhancements will bring Live to parity with the streaming competition. Much like Persicope, “Comment Replays” will show a chronological overlay of comments in archived videos. Like Periscope’s “hearts” feature, watchers will be able to infinitely “like” a stream or beam any of Facebook’s six Reaction emojis to the greater viewing audience. And like Snapchat, broadcasters will be able to switch between five color filters including sepia and black and white and doodle atop videos in real time.
Facebook’s betting on more than new features to attract eyeballs, though — it’s inked paid exclusivity agreements with a number of undisclosed studios and news outlets.
“We’re encouraging public figures and media companies to get in early and figure out what works,” Facebook’s Product Management Director for video Fidji Simo told TechCrunch. “We’re offering very early financial incentives to figure out the production up front and set up the studios.” For all video producers, it’s debuting both an API that’ll let them use high-end DSLRs and other equipment to broadcast to Live, and a new audience metrics tool that breaks out granular stats such as total unique viewers.
Why all the attention on live video? Monetization potential is a good guess. Facebook’s Vice President of Partnerships Dan Rose told Variety that users watch live broadcasts three times longer than archived video, and that streams generate 10x more comments. That’s music to advertisers’ ears. Later this year, Faceook plans to enter revenue-sharing agreements with its paid Live partners.
In the interim, Facebook is angling to attract away a critical mass of broadcasters and viewers from the crowded field of heavyweight, established competitors like YouTube and Periscope. If Facebook manages to do so, it’ll be the network’s biggest content coup since it began hosting written content as a part of its Instant Articles program. If the success of that initiative is any indication, it may only be a matter of time.
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