Facebook is enabling one billion people around the world to comment live on their TV viewing.
The social network is giving its users a new social action, Watching, beginning with users in the USA.
This action lets them easily compose a post that says which television show or movie they are viewing. The post automatically incorporates an icon for the show, a link to the show’s official Facebook page and the page’s cover image.
A user’s Facebook friends will then be able to Like, comment on and share the Watching post, as in this example for Jurassic Park.
The significance of this move for Social TV can hardly be overstated
Watching fulfils several strategic and commercial objectives for Facebook simultaneously. It:
- Constitutes a direct attack on Twitter’s hold over live TV engagement
- Greatly enhances Facebook’s positioning in Social TV
- Strengthens it against Social TV startups
- Creates ideal content for the new Facebook Home smartphone app
- Gives Facebook fresh media consumption data
- Provides TV-related and real-time advertising opportunities
A direct attack on Twitter’s hold over live TV engagement
The aim of the Watching action is to enable and encourage Facebook users to start and to participate in a greater volume of real-time conversations about television.
The launch of Watching makes Facebook the first major competitor for Twitter’s virtual monopoly over audience commenting on their live TV viewing. Such competition challenges Twitter’s wider strategy of positioning itself as the main ally to the TV sector.
The wider context is that Facebook and Twitter are battling to become the leading social media venue for consumers to discover and share entertainment content.
Facebook Watching posts get their information about TV shows, movies, sports events and celebrities from Rovi, a company that provides entertainment data for television EPGs and iTunes. Developers can also access Rovi data when creating Facebook apps.
Facebook’s announcement of its data agreement with Rovi stated, “We see the social interaction with movies, TV shows and video entertainment growing immensely over the next couple of years.”
Twitter has meanwhile secured its biggest advertising deal to date, with the Publicis ad-buying company Starcom MediaVest Group, under which Twitter will be a “bridge” to television. The two companies are also establishing a Social TV lab together.
At the same time, Twitter has agreed to distribute entertainment TV clips from BBC America. Other broadcaster deals are under negotiation with Viacom and NBCU and Twitter will show video from Comedy Central’s forthcoming comedy festival, #ComedyFest. All these TV initiatives follow close after the launch of the Twitter #Music service.
Greatly enhances Facebook’s positioning in Social TV
Facebook has positioned itself as the partner for broadcasters and producers to engage with viewers all the time. Yet it had tacitly conceded ground to Twitter as the go-to venue for viewer discussion specifically during the live broadcast of a show.
Watching means that Facebook can now stake a considerably stronger claim that it facilitates viewer discussions 24/7.
Strengthens it against Social TV startups
The rollout of Watching also competes with Social TV startups that rely on motivating their own users to share what they are currently viewing.
Watching has the potential to impede their growth. When an individual can readily share their viewing with their Facebook friends, why would they join another service?
Ideal content for the new Facebook Home smartphone app
The recently-announced Facebook Home service aims to give Facebook users a constant stream of live updates from their friends via smartphones.
This is a good match for second screen TV viewing. Users with Home will see Watching posts from Facebook friends saying which TV shows they are viewing and they will be able to comment on those posts to start discussions.
Provides Facebook with fresh media consumption data
Watching gives Facebook data about media consumption and reactions to media content that is continually updated, in real time, from sources such as viewing television.
By contrast, the value of Likes as data is limited. People change their content preferences over time and no-one will Like the same piece of content more than once. For these reasons, Watching effectively supersedes Likes as a useful source of media consumption data.
Enhances TV-related and real-time advertising opportunities
In parallel with the rollout of Watching, Facebook is offering its advertising partners the opportunity to target individuals who use the action, together with their Facebook friends.
This is highly useful for media and entertainment companies looking to market their content, particularly new TV shows and movies.
It opens a further opportunity, for advertisers who run commercials during a particular TV show to target the same viewers via Facebook, too.