‘A big playground’: Publishers look to Facebook Live for experimentation initially

It’s Facebook’s world and publishers are just live streaming in it — or it at least seems that way when BuzzFeed gets 800,000 people to watch it explode a watermelon.

That viral live clip, plus Facebook’s sudden and significant move into live streaming, was a big part of conversation at the first Digiday Video Anywhere Summit. While not every publisher had live streamed on Facebook, almost every single attendee is looking to take that step. With Facebook itself expected to announce a few more live video products, tools and features during its F8 developers conference, we rounded up a group of publishers and asked them: How important has Facebook Live become in your overall video content and programming strategy?

Chris Berend, head of video, CNN
It’s going to be a big playground for us. But we’re not going to try and replicate TV on it because we already have an incredible place to live stream that. I can see us doing it globally, stuff from the field, videos hosted by experts like Sanjay Gupta — the things that make CNN different. But we’re not going to try and create a bad version of a TV show. A lot of people have tried to do that and I think audiences would rather just watch TV than a bad version of it on Facebook.

Scott Havens, global head of digital video, Bloomberg
It hasn’t been important for us yet. We have just begun to think about how to leverage it. We are certainly interested in the power and ease of it. But the monetization isn’t super-clear yet. We’ll test it out. We have 2,500 journalists and spend a lot of time with CEOs and leaders of industry. Being able to spin up those conversations or have side conversations could be very interesting. It could also be great for breaking news and reactions to breaking news. But if you’re asking me whether it can scale — no one knows.

Amy Emmerich, chief content officer, Refinery29
We are putting resources into testing a variety of programming, which so far has included celebrity Q&As, cooking shows, exercise tips, award-show commentary and even covering political rallies. It gives us a huge opportunity to develop new talent and experiment with new types of content and topics. It requires a lot of work, but it has such major potential, you can’t ignore it.

Blake Sabatinelli, general manager, Newsy
We’re looking at Facebook Live as an amazing place to experiment. Just look at what BuzzFeed did with a watermelon, which was amazing and hilarious. It’s a good place for us to expose who we are as a brand without the [polished] veneer of our usual videos. Moving forward, it’s really yet to be seen if Facebook Live has longevity, but it could be an incredibly important part of any video company’s business. We’re looking at how to use it daily.

Beth Le Manach, vp of programming, Kin Community
You can’t help but want to participate because Facebook is rewarding live video by putting it at the top of people’s news feeds. It also allows us to be a more human brand. There isn’t a lot of production value, you can do it on the spot. We will definitely try to go live a few times a week, show behind-the-scenes things, a cocktail hour — I don’t know what’s going to take off yet, but we’re trying as many things as we possibly can.


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