Facebook is adding new features to Facebook Live in a major push to get more of its 1.6 billion users shooting and watching live streaming video on mobile devices.
Among the new features: the ability to broadcast live to a Facebook group or schedule a live Q&A session through Facebook events. Videos will also be front and center on Facebook, getting their own dedicated spot in the mobile app.
The world’s largest social network made the announcements ahead of its annual conference for software developers next week in San Francisco.
Facebook Live rolled out to celebrities and public figures last summer and more widely earlier this year. Demand for live video impressed CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has made Facebook Live a top priority at Facebook.
It’s a “new, raw, personal, spontaneous way people can share,” Zuckerberg said while demonstrating the Live streaming technology on his Facebook page on Wednesday. The demo was briefly delayed when Zuckerberg decided to relocate to the “Live video launch room” with the team that worked on the product. Zuckerberg took questions from viewers and demonstrated how to use Facebook Live, which he said is rolling out “soon.”
“We’re entering this new golden age of videos online,” Zuckerberg said.
With the quality of smartphone cameras and ease of video-streaming apps, more people are experimenting with live video. Periscope, which Twitter bought last March, helped introduce mobile live streaming to the mainstream. Now Facebook is challenging the front runner.
“It’s something that took all of us by surprise,” Facebook product management director Fidji Simo told USA TODAY. “We had this meeting earlier in the year in which we presented the plans for video to Mark and the team. We had just rolled out Live to people and I said it was really taking off and I wanted to flag that for everyone in the room. Mark paused and said: ‘Well, if that’s going so well, we should double down on that.’ And that’s how it got started of focusing more resources on this.”
With a few taps of the smartphone, people can broadcast live to family and friends or to the world over Facebook Live.
For viewers, the live video feeds offer a peek into intimate moments — grandparents delighting in a toddler’s first steps or distant friends tagging along on house-hunting tours — or into special events, such as astrophysicist Sara Seager answering questions about the solar system, gourmet chef Mario Batali whipping together recipes from ingredients suggested by viewers, Jennifer Lopez announcing her new single or Martha Stewart baking soft pretzels with Seth Meyers. As viewers watch, they can chat with one another in real time.
Facebook is placing big bets on 360-degree or “spherical” footage and live streaming — tempting new distractions to keep people glued to Facebook where they already lap up 100 million hours of video each day. At stake for Facebook: video ads that command higher prices and could position Facebook to crack open that big pot of dollars that marketers spend on television.
Simo says Facebook is focused on making video “even more engaging, even more immersive.” “Live and 360 videos are the next evolution of our video platform,” she said.
Facebook isn’t the only one pouring resources and effort into live streaming video.
Over the last year, Periscope says it has streamed some 200 million live broadcasts. Google’s YouTube is said to be making its own mobile live video app, YouTube Connect. Snapchat, the messaging app popular with young people, has a channel for “live stories”— collections of current events from different people and perspectives.
Live is going to be the next big battleground in tech,” says James Cakmak, an analyst with brokerage firm Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.
In the race for live video, Facebook has the advantage of its enormous audience. And it’s courting media partners and celebrities to get more live video on Facebook.
“It’s impressive to see the amount of traction that Facebook is getting from live video. Thousands, or even tens of thousands of people are watching a video live when it’s happening and then Facebook is getting replays after the video streaming has stopped,” said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson. “It is definitely becoming a big thing.”
Simo declined to say how many people on Facebook are using Facebook Live or how much. “It’s very early,” she said, but “we are seeing strong adoption.”
New features that Facebook is rolling out on iOS and Android in coming weeks will make it easier to invite friends to watch a live video by tapping on an invite icon. Viewers will be able to express their feelings about live videos with Facebook “reactions,” including love, haha, wow, sad or angry.
Broadcasters will get more creative tools, including a set of five filters, and eventually the ability to draw or doodle on the video while it’s live.
Facebook is also attempting to make it simpler to find live video. Video will now have its own dedicated spot in the mobile app. Facebook users can search videos or make their own by tapping on the video icon. A live map lets Facebook users explore public live broadcasts happening around the world.
Still, live video is far less common than pre-recorded video and it may take time to catch on broadly, Cakmak says.
“Live is not something that has been fully embraced by consumers yet,” he said. “It’s still a relatively new phenomenon.”
Source Cowan: USA Today