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BuzzFeed stunt highlights Facebook’s push into streaming

Associated Press

April 11, 2016


LOS ANGELES — Viral video maker BuzzFeed got at least 3.1 million people to flip over to Facebook to watch a pair of people in hazmat suits and goggles wrap rubber bands around a watermelon until it exploded.

The live stunt Friday placed a major spotlight on Facebook Live, the social media company’s push to get people to stream live footage of anything and everything in their lives. To encourage early adoption, Facebook has been paying a small number of media companies, including BuzzFeed, to get creative with live streaming, according to news reports this week.

BuzzFeed, an online media company known for its wacky videos, quizzes and articles, said Facebook did not pay for watermelon crushing. Facebook wouldn’t comment on the record about whether it helped fund the watermelon and other supplies.

There’s no doubt, though, that Facebook now has a great example that shows how live streams can quickly spread among its 1.6 billion users.

The watermelon survived about 45 minutes before its top blasted off, leading to an eruption of cheers among onlookers inside BuzzFeed’s New York cafeteria. About 800,000 people watched together online at one moment in the broadcast, which BuzzFeed said marked its largest ever concurrent viewership. The figure is comparable to what video streaming app Twitch gets for top video game competitions.

Facebook classifies anyone who tunes in for at least three seconds as a viewer, which is much shorter than the one-minute requirement TV ratings firm Nielsen uses.

Live video is among Facebook’s top initiatives. Smartphones and better mobile data connections have made it easy for people to quickly upload videos and draw a large number of viewers across the world. And because ads tied to videos tend to be more lucrative, and even more so when attached to live content, tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are eager to become hubs for video sharing.

Facebook won’t say how many people are using its Facebook Live, explaining it’s too early to judge the product, which was first introduced to celebrities, athletes and journalists last August before rolling out to everyone.

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