(Be sure to check out this series’ introductory entry here.)
To get ahead in the OTT game, accessibility and reach are going to be of paramount importance. Few brands and platforms are more readily taken for granted as a simple fact of life than Facebook. While their forays into this sector have thus far been of a “testing the water” variety, we know that potential sponsors, partners, content creators, and co-producers have been eagerly watching their every step in this area. The potential for landmark success is enormous.
In 2017, Facebook cut a deal with Major League Baseball to simulcast a single game each week, which means the contents of the stream were originating from another source and the social media giant was a secondary means of delivery. This season, however, they are upping the ante dipping more than a toe in the sports stream (as it were). Facebook has the exclusive rights to stream 25 major league games. Meaning, no matter who you are or what services you have access to, unless you are actually at the ballpark, you cannot see these games without Facebook.
The Facebook news feed algorithm had for a time shown preference to social and pre-recorded video content, uploaded and living on the site (as opposed to an offsite video link). This encouraged marketers and publishers to dedicate resources to producing a lot of fluffy and / or transparently provocative, quickly consumed public videos. When one’s news feed is full of such content — according to clinical research conducted both by and independent of Facebook — it leads to aimless, isolated scrolling and little social interaction, which is unhealthy for the user experience. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, said in a message posted to the site at the start of the year that he was more concerned with the health of the Facebook community than he was with maximizing profits. As such, the news feed algorithm would begin to favor more positive content, and content that would encourage users to interact with family and friends. The above cited research indicated that such interaction is actually positive for the user.
In August of 2017 the site launched Facebook Watch, their own on demand streaming service, rolling it out slowly to users over the course of the month. The stated mission statement was / is to create a platform for shows: “made up of episodes — live or recorded — that follow a consistent theme or storyline. Shows are a great format if you want to share a video series, like a weekly cooking show, a daily vlog, or a set of videos with recurring characters or themes.”
The endgame is described as such: “Our goal is for Watch to be a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work.”
Live video is different than its static counterpart, in that it encourages interaction to a degree exceeding pre-recorded video by six times. To make the latter content more interactive and less passive Facebook has created a functionality for its groups called “Watch Party.” The concept being that instead of a video that gets shared around — perhaps for days or weeks — accumulating comments and activity but little interactivity, these scheduled viewing events would / will find people commenting on a video in real time, communally.
As Facebook’s news blog described back in mid-July when the feature was launched, “Once a Watch Party is started, participants can watch videos, live or recorded, and interact with one another around them in the same moment. We’ve been focused on building new ways to bring people together around video, create connections, and ignite conversations; Watch Party is the next step in bringing this vision to life.”
The live ball games have thus far been shown without commercials, and entirely free of charge. Facebook Live has stated that no sort of subscription model is on the horizon, but as they’ve rather definitively thrown their hat, and wallet, in the live-streaming sports ring, we’d be remiss to not include them here.
Late last summer Zuckerberg made a $600 million bid for the exclusive digital rights to India’s Premier cricket league. The Rupert Murdoch owned Star India ultimately won the bidding war — of which Sony was also a part — acquiring the rights for $2.6 billion.
One can safely assume that the exclusive rights to even 25 Major League games does not come inexpensively. If interactivity and keeping users engaged with the platform for longer periods of time is the ultimate goal, then this could ultimately prove to be massively beneficial in that regard. The announcers have at times posed questions to viewers, whose responses will enter the ongoing discourse, but it seems that for all the money spent, they’re still very much in the experimental phases of how to present live sporting events in a way that is unique to the platform.
The Basic Demos:
Perhaps owing to the sports-centric nature of Facebook Live’s thus far strongest attempts to bring in participants, things lean rather pronouncedly male with their current audience.
The income situation seems very in line with the the average American social media audience. Facebook Live’s fans under-index a bit in the bracket of earning less than $50,000 a year. When it comes to earning $100k-and-up their audience exceeds what is typical to an extent a touch more than slight.
The division of ages among Facebook Live’s audience finds no age bracket too dramatically over or under-indexed. Those ages 45 and up, still, are more present among this audience than they and their peers are among the average American social media crowd.
What is of particular note here is the presence of Duane Reade — an exclusively New York City based pharmacy chain (albeit, while once locally owned, a Walgreen’s subsidiary since 2010, and a ubiquitous one if you’re within the city limits) — they find affinity among the Facebook Live crowd to a degree exceeding the norm by very nearly seven-and-a-quarter times. A StatSocial insight like this is precisely the sort of thing that both Duane Reade and Facebook might find of particular interest.
Also of interest to the relevant parties involved, Coca-Cola, one of the biggest brands in the world, finds affinity here to a degree exceeding the already substantial baseline by over three-and-two-thirds times.
There could potentially be a conflict of interest, in the view of some, were Facebook to begin its own news division. That is arguable to say the least, however. What the most significantly over-indexed TV shows among the Facebook Live audience strongly suggest, though, is that actual news feeds (as opposed to the platform’s proprietary “News Feed”), from a variety of sources, may be a fruitful use of their live-streaming capabilities.
The sports teams most dramatically over-indexing here all play one sport, football. The kind we call soccer.
As you’ll tend to see among soccer fans the world over, and especially in the states, soccer from Spain and the U.K. is of some interest to the broadest swath of fans.
Former Real Madrid superstar, and probably the most globally famous, currently active football player, Cristiano Ronaldo, is as of this year playing for Italy’s Juventus F.C. This is, we’d suspect, the greatest reason for their presence here, indexing to a degree exceeding the baseline by comfortably over two-and-one-third times. There is also a Netflix original documentary series about the team — who are, it must be noted, a club of international renown with or without Ronaldo — called ‘First Team: Juventus’ that has certainly helped to raise the club’s profile among American audiences.
We mentioned above that Facebook made a bid to grab the streaming rights for India’s Premier League cricket. The top YouTube channel — the Indian news channel, NDTV (New Delhi Television) — bolsters the notion that even here in the states, the social media giant has a number of members interested in keeping up with the events of India. Indeed, it is boasted on NDTV’s website that they provide viewers with the “latest news from India,” adding that viewers will be greeted by, “news headlines from Business, Technology, Bollywood, Cricket,” and so forth.
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Watch this space, as this survey of the platforms most eager to get you cutting that cord has more to come.
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