I've spent the last week or so mulling over what Facebook Live means for the enterprise. Right now, most analysis centers on comparisons between Live and services like Meerkat, SnapChat and Periscope. While those are obvious comparisons to make, my view is that the current analysis is wrong.
The received wisdom, of which Mark Zuckerberg CEO Facebook is a self declared evangelist, is that video is the next mega growth media frontier. No-one is wholly clear how this will be monetized but you can be sure that Facebook will find a way.
Elsewhere, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and a good number of well known titles are investing like crazy in video. I'm not convinced anyone has much of a clue what they're doing but that's inevitable in a Wild West market. But there's something worrying about what we can expect when Buzzfeed garners 10.6 million views of two people exploding a watermelon using 680 rubber bands. Putting aside the nonsense element, what does Live mean for business?
On the supply side of the video industry, Live blows a big hole in the CDN business model for live streaming and throws down the gauntlet to YouTube. BL (Before Live), video streaming was largely a difficult endeavor requiring cartloads of equipment, hard wired ethernet connections and VERY expensive bandwidth. I know, I've done it. Silicon Angle has an entire business model with The Cube shows.
Facebook has largely solved the cost problem with Live and made it drop dead simple to stream from any device on which you can get the Facebook mobile application. If that was all then you'd likely say 'Meh' but Facebook has done a lot more. Here's a few things to think about:
Things you can do with Facebook Live
- Facebook has provided the facility for your live audience to post 'reactions' to the post where the stream exists. This allows for example live Q&A. I like this feature because to date, most efforts to mix social media have involved either an IRC channel or bringing in a Twitter feed. While that works, the facts of life are that people are much more likely to see what you're doing inside Facebook plus it has the advantage of eliminating yet another pinch point - services integration.
- Live lives inside Facebook and therefore it automatically hits the worlds largest potential audience. In early tests, I've been surprised at just how much of an audience Live generates.
- Facebook has made Live more than an 'in the moment' solution but one that can be replayed on your Facebook page and embedded on websites. That means there are significant after market distribution opportunities. Again, I'm seeing very good early results and distribution that beats YouTube hands down. At least in the short term.
- If you wish, the Live streaming audience can be restricted to groups, so brands can concentrate on appealing to specific demographics they create inside Facebook.
- Facebook has assembled an impressive list of development partners including Wirecast, which provides software that allows for live switching using multiple cameras and other sources. This means you could consider using an IP network based video system to stream from a studio, all controlled from a laptop. How cool is that?
- Most interesting to me, Facebook has made the Live API available. This opens up an entire world of invention for video hardware and software producers. For example, I'm interested to see what Newtek comes up with given they are our preferred switcher provider and have recently provided multi-Skype capability through their TalkShow VS-4000 box, announced at NAB this week. Wouldn't it be cool for instance to bring in say two or three people from remote locations, adding them into a Live broadcast at an event?
Until recently I've not been that interested in Facebook as a medium for enterprise use. Live changes that dramatically. The fact that Wirecast allows me to stream out to multiple services simultaneously pushes Wirecast to the top of the queue when thinking about advanced production values like captioning, intros, screen grabs and so on. Newtek will have to up their game as will Ustream, which was recently acquired by IBM.
Brands will need to be careful how they assemble Live events for a variety of reasons, not least the fact they won't be able to dump stand alone content and assume that will work. Like other forms of media, they will need to think through how this new medium can best be used for story telling that keeps an audience interested. Once again, I am seeing a few interesting experiments that encourage me to share the content I see.
I'd like to see what John Furrier, co-founder Silicon Angle, does about The Cube and CrowdChat. Both those shows have garnered solid audiences at tech shows but I am wondering whether Facebook Live changes their distribution strategy.
There's a few gotchas - for example, the maximum resolution you can stream today isHD 720p. that's OK for small video representation on a Facebook post but not good enough for embedding onto a web page. Expect to see Facebook optimize and improve to at least 1080p. Wifi connections need to be solid otherwise you'll see annoying pixelation in the final live stream but not on the camera.
From our perspective, you can expect to see diginomica's video arm JD-OD engage in a bunch of experiments that may include mobile and studio work as well as live event broadcast. Like everyone else, we'll be figuring out the best ways to use this service and adjusting our approach accordingly.