Is Facebook About to Turn Brands Into Broadcasters?

Its plunge into live video raises 3 big questions for marketers

Facebook revealed last month that its algorithm will boost live video in its newsfeed because users are watching real-time footage three times longer than recorded clips on the site. And the company Wednesday announced a dedicated hub for all things video—mostly to promote livestreams. 

Social-video broadcasting is poised to take off in a big way. And the initiative, called Facebook Live, has grabbed marketers' attention. 

"Facebook Live is absolutely a tool that needs to be leveraged by brands in a large capacity," contended Jason Stein, CEO of digital agency Laundry Service. "Right now is a critical time for brands to develop a very strong live video strategy."

Ron Pruett Jr., CEO of TV personality Al Roker's digital media startup, Roker Media, predicts Facebook's move will have ripple effects. "The hub and Facebook's ability to leverage the long tail of video really differentiates them in the market," he said. "I suspect others will be hot on their trail."

We asked a few industry players what the hub means to the marketplace. Here are three intriguing questions they raised.

1. Will Facebook Live turn brands into broadcasters? 

Given how live video evidently performs superbly on the social site, Stein said that "brands need to rethink their entire approach to video on Facebook."

What's more, he said, marketers are suddenly challenged by talent and logistical questions.

"Should you be broadcasting live every day instead of producing TV spots? What stories are best told live? How do you feature your products best in live video? What infrastructure does your brand and agency need to be set up for success with live video? Do you need a studio? Hosts? Should we shoot on mobile or use high-production-value cameras?" Stein asked. 

While answering those questions is a challenge, Stein added that many brands are in a good position for live video thanks to partnerships with influencers.

"I think brands will set up studios for their livestreams to take place, and I think many livestreams will take place on location and at events. That's a creative decision," Stein answered. "Marketers will definitely partner with talent that can host and lead their livestreams. But this is not really new—we have our influencers taking over brands' Snapchat channels and livestreams at events all the time, and have been doing this for a year now."

2. How badly will it hurt YouTube and Periscope?

The social network's increased dedication to video has YouTube and Periscope's market share in its cross hairs. Marketers said Facebook could be tough to beat. 

"Facebook is one of the clear leaders in this live space," Pruett said. "Creators and talent should flock to it even more than others as Facebook rolls out various monetization tools and options."

Indeed, Facebook promises to pay content creators for livestreaming their videos on its platform exclusively. "That's a powerful one-two punch" when you consider the digital giant can attract 1 billion daily users, suggested Peter Csathy, CEO of Manatt Digital Media, 

3. Is a Facebook Live television app inevitable?

Facebook has been dipping its toe into the TV content world, offering an app on Samsung and LG TV sets in recent years and partnering with livestreamer Rabbit TV in 2015. Now, Stein of Laundry service bets a Facebook Live channel is coming to a flat-screen television near you.

"The challenge with TV and the internet is that there is way too much content, and Facebook has become Facebook because it has an algorithmically curated feed that shows you the most important content out of all of the content on the internet," he explained. "Applying this algorithmic approach to live video discovery is essentially the new way to watch TV, removing the terrible UX of the TV guide.

"You end up with the global live video network that automatically shows the live videos you want to see most. Just wait until this live video hub is unbundled into a TV app."