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The State of Media and Entertainment Video 2017
Social streaming is on the rise, the BBC diversifies its output, and leading subscription services Amazon and Netflix grow in international markets.
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2016 was a year in which social streaming began to mature from an individual, user-driven experience into a communications tool for brands and broadcasters, after the rise of social streaming apps such as Meerkat, Periscope, and Facebook Live in 2015.

Meerkat launched at SXSW in March 2015, immediately becoming a must-have app among early adopters and offering simple functionality for those who wanted to broadcast live from their mobile devices. However, Meerkat lagged behind the other two services in terms of users and streams due to its lack of integration with a social network. It was finally pulled from the app stores at the end of September 2016.

Meerkat’s debut was shortly followed by the launch of Periscope, which had been acquired before launch by Twitter. Facebook Live was last to market and didn’t launch until August 2015 as part of the Mentions app, which is used by those who have a verified Facebook page.

Facebook got a surprising amount of traction almost immediately with various celebrity users of the Mentions app immediately beginning to broadcast to very high numbers of viewers. The initial consumption data from Facebook Live streams was compelling; on average, users were watching live video three times longer than on-demand content, and they were commenting 10 times more often.

Individual users and brands alike can broadcast to Facebook Live, and 2017 is likely to see more major entertainment events—like TV series premieres—broadcast over the service. 

To capitalize on that momentum, Facebook paid approximately 140 publishers and influencers about $50 million between them to create live video content. This list included BuzzFeed, CNN, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Hearst, and many others that immediately began producing a significant amount of higher-quality content.

At its F8 event in April 2016, Facebook Live was made available to all users, bringing it into direct competition with Periscope. More importantly for brands and media owners, however, the Facebook Live API was made available. This meant content could now be delivered via encoders rather than just from mobile phones.

In addition, Facebook Live content could be produced in a more traditional way using familiar production techniques and multiple cameras. This led to an immediate jump in the quality, scope, and ambition of branded content; brands could produce higher-quality content more in line with their values and not limited by what could be shot using a mobile phone.

Facebook Live’s success has been due to its ability to quickly attract an audience to content. This is driven by those who like a page having that page’s live content delivered into their timelines. A proportion of this audience then shares and likes the content, which attracts their friends to it. This pushes content beyond the core audience who likes a page and in front of a much larger, but less engaged, audience. To service this audience, brands must consider how to engage and interact with them.

With the logistical shackles removed from what could be created, brands turned their attention to what could be achieved creatively. This has led to several different approaches.

One of the most interesting practices to develop over the last 6 months is television content premiering on Twitter and Facebook well before broadcast transmission to drive engagement. This has been done with a number of programs including Mr. Robot and Outcast.

The premiere episode of the second series of Mr. Robot was premiered across Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube with a video that looked like a transmission from an Anonymous-style hacking group before becoming the full first episode of the new series.

Outcast premiered its debut episode 2 weeks before transmission in 61 countries in a total of 22 different languages. The content was promoted to and aimed at the same demographic who watches The Walking Dead, as both series are based on graphic novels by the same writer.

So how has Periscope combatted this move by Facebook to dominate the brand and media space? Early November 2016 saw the release of Periscope Producer, which allows content creators to deliver highly produced content directly into the platform in a very similar way to Facebook Live. At the moment, however, the system is fairly rudimentary and seems like merely a stopgap to try to dent Facebook Live’s momentum.

Facebook Live and Periscope

The big question that remains about Facebook Live and Periscope is how they can potentially generate revenue for both themselves and creators, and what that will mean for both platforms.

Facebook is still exploring how video advertising models could work. In August, Facebook gave publishers the ability to insert 15-second commercial breaks into their live streams at any point except within the first 5 minutes of content. The functionality is still being assessed. There is no guarantee that the format will remain, but it does suggest a TV-like approach to advertising going forward. The big question is how advertising will be controlled: will it be randomly dropped in or controlled by content creators?

Given the nature of the platform, there will hopefully be more relevant advertising delivered directly to users based on both user data and what is being watched. If Facebook can reduce the number of irrelevant ads being shown, then a significant increase in engagement is likely.

Meanwhile, Periscope has been trialing campaigns that use talent and live streaming to deliver value. One of the first to try this approach was a campaign around the U.S. Open in September, when Chase and Grey Goose worked with the former pro Andy Roddick to deliver commentary and live video via his Twitter handle. This type of sponsored programming is another potentially interesting model for the monetization of content, but at the moment it has only been tested in a few pilots.

Periscope has been trialling campaigns that combine brands, celebrity, and live streaming, like one for Chase and Grey Goose that saw former tennis pro Andy Roddick touring the U.S. open grounds via Twitter. The video is available to watch on demand on YouTube, though the capture quality isn’t top-notch. 

While the advertising model is being pinned down, Facebook has to overcome a significant problem with its video metrics. Facebook had been overestimating the average viewing time for video adverts for more than 2 years, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal in November. The error occurred because Facebook excluded sessions of less than 3 seconds when calculating average viewing times, which meant it had overestimated viewing times by somewhere between 60 percent and 80 percent.

This incident obviously is a major blow in the trust brands and content creators have in the platform, and Facebook will need to work hard to regain that trust.

It is difficult to ascertain how successful video has been on both Twitter and Facebook, but from the general anecdotal evidence from brands and agencies, it seems to be significant.

Certainly based on the evidence we have seen (full disclosure: my employer Groovy Gecko is a Facebook Live partner), the number of viewers media owners can expect on a live stream on Facebook Live far outweighs other platforms such as Periscope and YouTube Live.

It’s interesting that, because of the nature of the way Facebook spreads content through likes and shares, a wide range of types of content delivers significant audiences from film and music to politics and charitable campaigns.

There is massive diversity in the types of content being created and attracting an audience across the board. The battle for Mosul was streamed on Facebook Live, giving a never-before-seen level of reporting on the conflict. In addition, ABC put the presidential debates between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump on the service, and 28 million people watched the Democratic National Convention before that. At the other end of the content spectrum, Wayne Rooney’s testimonial match was the first ever game between Premier League teams to be streamed live on Facebook to several million viewers.

Top of Form

Another area of growth and maturation this year has been 360° video, and Facebook is also making a play here in both on-demand and live content. In December 2016, Facebook premiered its first live 360° stream as a joint initiative with National Geographic from the Mars desert research station. The service will be rolled out throughout 2017 but is unlikely to be widely available until the second half of the year.

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