Why Facebook Is Changing Online Video, Television

Before the internet, the only way to make television social was by inviting friends over to watch your favorite show, the Superbowl, a movie, or other major events. But as the use of online video has grown at a staggering rate, websites are increasingly able to let people around the world interact with friends using social technologies like Facebook Connect.

The opportunities to make online video experiences more social are huge. Nielsen estimates that the amount of total online video streams grew by 41 percent in the last year alone.

The early use cases of video sites implementing Connect have illuminated the power of the platform for this purpose:
  1. During the inauguration of President Barack Obama, CNN ran Facebook’s “live stream” widget inside its website. As viewers watched the president’s speech, they could log-in using their Facebook ID and update their Facebook status messages. These messages appeared next to the video running on CNN.com. More than two million people updated their status.
  2. During the NBA All-Star game, TNT implemented a similar Facebook Connect integration so viewers could watch the game and make comments as it progressed.
  3. Within Facebook, celebrities and companies have utilized Facebook Connect to make online video more social. In May, the popular teenybopper band Jonas Brothers created a tab in their Public Profile that allowed users to experience their new single and comment on it. The band obliged their fans by engaging in the conversation themselves.
  4. michael-jackson-facebookOn Tuesday, CNN will broadcast the memorial for Michael Jackson and allow people to update their Facebook status message.
  5. Video sites like YouTube, Joost and Hulu have made it possible for people to share video using their Facebook identity.

Facebook’s “live stream” widget has two tabs: One that shows status updates from everyone watching, and the other shows the status update of your friends. The second is the most immediately useful.

The fact you can watch an event like the president’s inauguration from your living room in San Francisco and hear what your friend in Boston has to say about it has immediate value for everyone – and is an especially effective way to increase engagement for publishers. But the interface could be customized even more, using Friend Lists. If, for instance, 150 of your friends were watching a World Series game or the season finale of Lost, you might want a tab to interact with your five closest friends and nobody else.

While the “Everyone watching” view makes it easy to discover what people around the world are saying about a particular event or program, it can be a bit noisy.

The implementations we’ve seen within Facebook to date, such as the Jonas Brothers, have been very effective at bringing traffic and attention back to Facebook Pages. If users visit the Page to chat, there is a good chance they will engage with other bits of content. However, bands shouldn’t feel constrained to keep everything within the borders of Facebook. They should run the video on sites all over the Web (like the inauguration and All-Star game examples), and stream updates back to the public profile.


All these use cases have been an admirable start in marrying online video with Facebook Connect. It will only be a matter of time before more customization options become available. The sharing of status messages during these events seems like just the beginning too. If online video sites could make use of other pieces of Facebook content, such as pictures, that could be very interesting. You could share pictures of your Superbowl party with your friends half way across the world, and that is very powerful.

All in all, Facebook Connect is starting to make a big impact in the way online video is watched and shared.