Facebook goes broadcast with Facebook Live updates



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Facebook is working on its video bona fides again, with the addition of new features for its Facebook Live functionality that make the offering more broadcast-like.


facebook liveLive is aimed squarely at digital-mobile natives: it allows users to take a video with an iPhone or Android device and share it instantly, essentially allowing live streaming. The fresh upgrades expand the concept to a wider realm, and broadcasters like Sky see the opportunity.

For instance, Live now includes the ability to ‘go live’ in Facebook Groups, as well as in Facebook Events. Live in Groups allows users to broadcast to just the people in the Facebook Group – so they can share kid videos with a family group, or share a workout plan in a fitness group. Live in Events is the more interesting one: It allows people to live-stream the proceedings as they happen, at, say, a concert.

This has all kinds of implications for using Facebook as a broadcast medium. A performer can go live backstage to the people who’ve RSVPed to the event, to give them a sneak peek. Users can use Events to schedule a live Q&A session as well.

The enhancements also include the ability to offer live reactions. Viewers can select Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry, and the reactions animate right on top of the video. Later Facebook plans to add the ability to draw or doodle on a video while live.

“Reactions appear in real time and disappear quickly so broadcasters and other viewers can get a sense of how people are feeling at different points during the live video – it’s like hearing the crowd applaud and cheer,” said Fidji Simo, product management director, giving an update via blog. “When your friend reacts to your video or to a video you are both watching together you’ll see their profile pic and a little starburst before their reaction appears.”

Also, users can replay comments made while live, so broadcasters can engage with their commenters and respond to their suggestions and questions.

“From initial data, we’ve seen that people comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos,” said Simo. “We want people watching the broadcast after the fact to feel “in” on the action. To achieve this, we will replay comments as they happened during the live broadcast when people watch it later.”

Facebook is also curating the experience, almost like a TV operator. It has rolled out a programme guide of sorts: a dedicated place on Facebook’s mobile app where people can discover live video that the world is talking about, live video from specific friends and creators, and live video on specific topics. For public live broadcasts, there’s a Facebook Live Map in the desktop version.

For its part, Sky is planning to make use of the added functionality in a few different ways. Sky News, Sky Sports and Soccer AM Facebook pages have a total of 14 million followers. In the past three months, Sky said that it had seen almost 370 million video views, and in January, Sky News was one of the most watched Facebook video publishers in the world. In the coming months, across news and sports, Sky plans on live broadcasting “a great deal of content” on Facebook Live, providing a unique behind the scenes look at some major sporting events, and breaking news stories.

“We’ve already been experimenting with it, and the results have been impressive,” said Lucien Bowater, digital director at Sky. “In less than 24 hours since its release, more than 100,000 people viewed Michael Atherton’s exclusive interview with Freddie Flintoff and Kumar Sangakkara at the T20 World Cup. In news, similar numbers watched Mark Stone’s live report on the migrant crisis in Calais.”

The mass-market launch of Facebook Live has gone well so far, according to the company — the socialverse seems to like it.

“Since launching Facebook Live last summer to public figures via our Mentions app and more recently to everyone in the US using our iOS and Android apps we’ve been surprised and delighted with how people are using live video to connect and interact with each other all over the world,” said Simo.

“People are letting their friends discover their hobbies. Parents are using it to share moments in their kids’ lives with their extended families. Athletes are giving people a window into their training. Chefs are bringing their fans into their kitchen. Journalists are hosting global conversations on topics they care about. Aspiring musicians can now put on a live concert for their friends.”

Broadcasters like it too. “I’ve… been really keen to embrace the opportunities presented by social media,” said Lucien Bowater, digital director at Sky. “With viewers consuming more and more content across lots of different devices, and with a reach in the hundreds of millions, it makes sense for us to deliver more of our content in this way.”

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