Opinion: Facebook may want to become your next pay TV provider

Jesse Redniss is co-founder of BRaVe Ventures. Alan Wolk is chairman of Second Screen Society.

While Twitter has been receiving most of the buzz around live television and tune-in, the launch of Facebook’s new video ad serving platform, Atlas, has the potential to radically change that conversation. Atlas gives Facebook the power to index users’ behavior both on and off Facebook, functionality we believe will be a huge boon for the television industry.

Today’s change in viewing patterns means that traditional ways of driving tune-in are decidedly less effective. Networks could once count on viewers having the TV on for the duration of the prime-time block where they’d be exposed to a steady stream of tune-in ads, but a recent study from CivicScience shows that only 47 percent of U.S. viewers still watch live TV, while 40 percent watch via DVR, VOD or streaming services. Those numbers shoot up dramatically with millennials, where time-shifted viewing is more than four times as frequent as live viewing.

Enter Facebook’s video ad network: by parsing data about what shows viewers have already “liked” on Facebook with other online behaviors (sites visited, purchases made, other “likes,” etc.) and mixing in data from their friend lists on both Instagram and Facebook, Facebook can now offer networks a targeted TV promotions platform.

Imagine ABC being able to push out a 30-second promo for “Modern Family” to millions of targeted viewers on Facebook and Instagram an hour before the program is due to air. That would be a powerful experience considering that a study from Shareablee, which computes interactions across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, showed that over 50 percent of all actions being taken across social media are in relation to TV content with the majority coming from Facebook and Instagram.

If the possibilities stopped there, we’d still be bullish on Facebook’s ability to drive tune-in, but Atlas is just the start. Nielsen will soon be including Facebook video in its Online Ratings, and companies like Synacor are enabling Facebook authentication for pay-TV providers so viewers can tie Facebook accounts to their provider’s TV Everywhere apps. That means that once a user sees an ad on Facebook, they will be able to click through to watch the series on their tablet, phone, PC or even stream it to their TV using a device like Chromecast or Roku.

All of this combines to give Facebook the ability to not just be the primary driver of live tune-in but the viewing platform as well. From Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings, to the networks ability to cull data surrounding viewing habits and integration capabilities, this is a comprehensive approach that takes into account measurement, user data, real-time adjustment and finally monetization.

While Facebook has stumbled in the past when dealing with user privacy concerns, we feel that the platform has learned from prior missteps and will be able to keep user fears at bay. Which is why, if we were a pay TV provider, we’d be keeping a very close eye on how quickly Facebook and the various broadcast and cable networks realize that an alliance is in their best interests.


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