‘Mustard-Gate’ and more: Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ embraces Facebook

Sometimes catching a Fox News anchor pumping massive globs of mustard into an empty water bottle is all you need to justify a two-hour Facebook Live stream of a condiment station at the Republican National Convention.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show,” which has been airing live episodes on CBS after each night of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. But TV is not the only place Colbert’s show has been going live. During the RNC in Cleveland, the show went live on Facebook 14 different times. Except these weren’t the type of live broadcasts viewers could expect from the likes of ABC News and CNN, which would be weird. Instead of speeches, news and commentary, “The Late Show” opted to go deep undercover and set up shop next to a condiment station, next to a garbage can and even on top of a Roomba.

While clearly intended to be funny stunts, people watched. The first condiment-station live stream has more than 445,000 views on Facebook, while the stream of the garbage can has more than 250,000 views and two “Roomba Cam” streams have more than 250,000 views.

“It’s a testament to the show’s unique sensibility and what live video can do on social,” said Jeff Grossman, svp of content strategy for CBS Interactive. “We’re basically streaming a condiment station and half-a-million people are engaging with that on Facebook.” (Indeed, one commenter asked when “season two of Condiments Cam will come out?”)

“The Late Show” team’s use of Facebook Live comes out of direct talks CBS had with Facebook, which has mounted a full-court press this year to get everyone from media companies to sports teams to use its live streaming feature. CBS is exploring how it can use Facebook Live across its network programming, but “The Late Show” embraced the feature early on. Initial live streams would show “The Late Show” staff getting ready for a taping — things people don’t “typically see on the air,” said Grossman.

With big plans for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, “The Late Show” team has sent 10 video and social-media staffers from the show’s production team to Cleveland and Philadelphia to capture, among other things, live footage. The stunt resulted in Facebook footage that worked for TV too, when one live Facebook video caught Fox News anchor Bret Baier dumping mustard into a water bottle. Colbert later had fun with “mustard-gate” in an on-air segment.

These stunts contributed to a pretty stellar week for “The Late Show” on digital platforms. The show, which Tubular Labs data said did nearly 13 million views on Facebook in June, generated 24 million views during the week of the RNC alone. (The live videos accounted for 2.2 million of those views.) The Facebook page, which today has 760,000 followers, added nearly 80,000 followers the same week. Meanwhile, average unique users and total visits per day for “The Late Show” on CBS.com and the CBS app surged by more than 600 percent last week compared to the average of the prior four weeks, CBS said.

Beyond the political conventions, doing live and exclusive content for Facebook will remain an integral aspect of “The Late Show” social strategy. (Similar thinking applies to James Corden’s “The Late Late Show” as well as other CBS programming, all of which are exploring ways to integrate Facebook Live into their social strategies, Grossman said.)

“It’s incumbent on us to know what trends are popular and see how audiences are engaging with content on specific platforms — and then tailor content accordingly,” said Grossman. “It’s equally important to experiment and adopt new things when they’re made available to us by Facebook and other social platforms.”



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