Facebook’s big live-streaming bet is starting to pay off. According to the company’s head of video, Fidji Simo, one in five videos shared on the social network is of the Facebook Live variety. The stat, shared by Simo in a public status update on her personal page, reveals that Facebook’s costly and time-consuming shift toward live broadcasting is actually starting to work. Simo also says that the amount of time users spend watching these Live videos has quadrupled in the past year.
Ever since Meerkat’s breakout success at the SXSW festival in March 2015, live video has become the prime focus of the biggest social networks. It makes sense — in the age of unlimited video streaming and on-demand everything, the one type of content that still holds relevance is the live moment. Whether these videos are coming from a news organization or a media company or one of your friends, Facebook sees all of it as the next step in its mission to command more of users’ attention to keep creators from flocking to platforms like Snapchat that it does not control.
This has been an expensive endeavor. Facebook paid media companies, athletes, and celebrities (including Vox Media, the parent company of The Verge) upwards of $50 million last year to produce these more polished live videos. The idea, then, was to flood Facebook with high-quality videos to test the platform and gather data on what worked and didn’t, as well as to help users adjust to a shift in what the News Feed algorithms would be prioritizing.
In January, Facebook began pulling its algorithms away from promoting those videos and reportedly did not renew its one-year contracts with the 140 or so big-name producers it used in 2016, according to Recode. Facebook still wants those producers on its platform, and it now has plans to pay out large sums to get longer, higher-quality videos on its platform to compete more directly with Netflix and Amazon.
But the goal now with Live is to try and urge many more everyday Facebook users to try it now that the format is familiar. That’s precisely why the company is spending millions of dollars to promote the platform using flashy TV advertisements and other high-profile marketing tools. It’s also no secret that Facebook is using Live as one of its many anti-Snapchat tools — many of the newest and most familiar features of Live, like live masks and other video filters, were cribbed directly from Snapchat.