Facebook Live changes everything. It’s gripping. It’s real. It’s immediate. And now it looks like it’s ready to kill the last remaining stronghold of network television.
Philando Castile, his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her small daughter, were pulled over last Wednesday afternoon in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, for a routine traffic violation. It did not go well.
Castile was reportedly reaching for his identification when the suburban cop shot him several times. As her boyfriend lay bleeding, Reynolds calmly picked up her smartphone.
She connected to Facebook and began to live stream the aftermath on Facebook Live as she narrated. That chilling video was viewed millions of times as the outrage spread nationally.
A day later, several thousand people across the country marched in protest.
In Dallas, a city well regarded for its progressive community policing, chaos unfolded when a sniper started shooting at police officers who were accompanying the protesters. As other officers heroically rushed toward the danger, the sniper sprayed bullets indiscriminately into the sea of blue, wounding eleven, killing five.
Shocked marchers scattered in the crossfire. Michael Kevin Bautista, a photojournalist and psychology student, took out his smartphone and began to stream the terrifying events on Facebook Live. That grainy, gripping video has now been viewed and shared millions of times on social media.
Facebook Live is the new reality TV — but it’s not only real, it’s live.
|Facebook Live is the new disrupter in the media world.|
This couldn’t come at a worse time for television. Besieged by on demand services like Netflix (NFLX), viewership has been in slow decline across all demographic groups for years. The damage has been especially startling for the important 18-34 age group.
Millennials grew up on the Internet, and they’re now addicted to their smartphones. They’re drifting away from traditional marketing venues like network television. The only pull toward TV is live programming.
Facebook Live is a direct attack. It’s gritty, voyeuristic, astonishingly addictive and live. In fact, it’s under-reported Live Map feature lets you peer into the lives of people in more than 60 countries as they live stream their stories. Diamond Reynolds and Michael Kevin Bautista are just two in tens of thousands of stories waiting to be watched.
When Facebook Live launched for celebrities in August 2015 it was following a trend. Meerkat and Twitter’s (TWTR) Periscope had already launched live-steaming applications that did most of the same things. What Facebook brought was an instant audience, your friends and family. Early stage beta testing with celebrities like Dwayne Johnson proved the concept. By the time the application reached full release in April 2016, it was a polished gem, ready for the masses.
And Facebook knew they had something big. It courted the developer community with an open application-program-interface, and it made subtle changes in the Newsfeed algorithm to accommodate more video as well as a larger number of posts from friends and family. Facebook wanted you to start watching because it knew you wouldn’t be able to stop.
New and old media have been squabbling over attention for a long time. The gains for Internet firms like Facebook, Netflix and Google have been mostly incremental. Television executives took solace in the fact live events would always draw viewers back to the fold. Facebook Live is likely to challenge that idea. This is good for Facebook, which is still a buy on every significant dip.
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