Facebook continues its fight for second-screen dominance

Facebook is working on new tools meant to encourage people to discuss the latest TV shows, breaking news, and live events on its service instead of Twitter. How? By making it easier for them to see their musings during broadcasts, making exclusive stickers for certain events, and becoming a polling service through which people can share some of their opinions with TV programmers.
The tools are part of the social network’s long battle to become the premier “second screen” service used whenever something interesting’s on television. (Seriously, these efforts have been ongoing since at least 2014, when the company worked with Fox to promote its apps during that year’s Super Bowl.) Facebook just isn’t content to let all the frenzied chirping happen on Twitter. And on top of that, the TV ad industry’s annual budget is something Facebook wants a chunk of as traditional commercials lose effectiveness.
Not that Facebook wants people to think it’s desperate.
“We highlighted one relevant study on our Facebook for Business blog which found that 85 percent of people who reported visiting a social network while watching TV said they visited Facebook,” its partner engineering director, Bob Morgan, said in today’s announcement. “Our own researchers discovered that Facebook usage peaks in primetime, in every country, and that the maximum daily Facebook audience occurs during maximum TV viewing.” See? Facebook’s already doing great!
But the company isn’t going to be happy until its services pervade every form of media. It wants text to be read via Instant Articles, videos to be watched through its native video player, and photos to be shared via Instagram. Then it wants all those forms of media to be scooped up from those services and shared via traditional outlets to create some kind of perpetual Facebook mechanism.
This is what that process could be like: Someone watches something on the television, so they use a custom sticker to share their thoughts with the world. Then they see that opinion on their television set, so they keep watch to see if other people’s opinions will be shared the same way. While that’s happening broadcasters can ask for viewers’ opinions through quick polls and surveys.
People would never have to leave Facebook — or the couch. Why use another application when anything you could ever want is right in Facebook’s? Want to read? Go for it! Wanna watch something? You can do that, too. Want something to do while something on the television plays in the background? Don’t worry, there’s something you can do for that, too. It’ll be all Facebook, all the time.
That might seem like a dystopian future to some, but Facebook probably just views it as a money-printing machine. This is why it keeps going after Twitter. Every tweet sent, every hashtag typed out, is a threat to Facebook’s dominance. So it’ll keep introducing features like this until people forget that they could ever share their thoughts somewhere else. All it has to do is kill that pesky bird.

Kik CEO: “Hey internet are you listening? Messaging has peaked”

It has certainly been an interesting month for messaging apps in the U.S.

Around the same time the New York Times penned its zeitgeist proclamation that messaging apps like Snapchat will become hubs of content and commerce like China’s WeChat, we learned from Comscore that these apps have plateaued in the U.S. in terms of growth. The companies are still attracting new users, but the rate of adoption is slowing in the 18+ crowd.

Right on schedule, Snapchat launched its Discover media feature this week, showcasing content from companies like CNN and Vice in a big departure from its former chatting focused strategy. Was Snapchat leaving messaging behind?

Kik CEO Ted Livingston, one of Snapchat’s biggest messaging competitors in the U.S., has been wondering the same thing. Although the apps is ranked sixth in U.S. social networking apps by iOS download, and 26th in apps overall, Kik is also struggling from a slowdown in growth.

I caught up with Livingston to get his take on what’s happening in the U.S. messaging app world, what he thinks of Snapchat’s Discover tool, and whether a “WeChat of the West” is still possible. What follows has been edited for length, order, and clarity.

Kik just hit 200 million registered users, but the Comscore data showed Kik –and all the other messaging apps — have flatlined in terms of growth. What did you think of that?

I can tell you from Kik’s perspective, we’re not growing as fast in the U.S. as we were in the past. I can tell you it’s not bullshit. We were very relieved to see [the Comscore data]. We were thinking maybe there’s something wrong with just us, but it’s everyone. Hey internet are you listening? Messaging has peaked!

What do you think is happening? Is messaging not actually the future of social media?

App adoption in general is plateauing in the U.S. On top of that smart phone adoption has plateaued in the U.S.

Chat in the West is a commodity. When a 15-year-old kid says, ‘Can we chat on Kik mom?’ Mom is like, ‘No, why would I?’

For us that’s where the [WeChat-like] platform play starts making sense. One you have critical density among youth and you have these non-commodity services on top of chat, teens will bring in everyone else they know. They’ll bring in parents because they need to buy something for them, or a friend because they need them to plan events. The platform may become a ticket to the rest of the demographic.

So that’s where the future growth will come from?


How does the plateau impact your plans in the present?

In a world where we are the only one plateauing, then we have the worst strategy. We’ve got to figure out how to keep up with everyone else.

When everyone is plateauing the question is what do we do now?

On that note, what do you think of Snapchat’s Discover? Is this the beginning of its big WeChat play?

Now it’s less about connecting with your friends as following brands. I’m like, ‘Oh shit, they’re just becoming a media company?’

Some have argued that media is just their first step in becoming a portal to other experiences, like gaming or personal budgeting apps.

I would say it’s definitely a step to becoming a platform…a broadcast platform (as opposed to a messaging platform). Snapchat started somewhere in between Kik and Instagram: private broadcast. But with the Stories feature they have gone more and more towards broadcast. So they are now a broadcast tool.

What is the best content to go from a broadcast tool to broadcast platform? To me it’s media. Makes complete sense.

Did you see that coming?

I did not, that’s not what I would’ve done. To me it’s very relieving because it takes some pressure off us. A messenger by itself is extremely difficult to monetize and it always has been in history. On the other side it’s brutally simple to figure out how to monetize a broadcast network like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and now Snapchat.

Maybe [Snapchat] has a great answer [with Discover] but it takes them further away from being the operating system that WeChat has been.

AT&T tackles LTE-Broadcast at college football championship

On Monday we didn’t just see the debut of the first College Football Playoff Championship Game. We also witnessed the first appearance of AT&T’s new LTE-Broadcast technology, which uses the 4G network to send the same content to multiple devices simultaneously.

While the Oregon Ducks got crushed by the Ohio State Buckeyes at [company]AT&T[/company] Stadium at Arlington, Ma Bell used its hometown advantage to run a limited trial of the new technology. AT&T and partner [company]MobiTV[/company] broadcast two ESPN video streams from the game showing replays from different angles as well as a data stream that delivered a constantly updating feed of stats and trivia, according to FierceWireless.

AT&T sent those streams from its cellsites in and around the stadium, which network supplier [company]Ericsson[/company] upgraded for the event. But as with Verizon’s demos at the Super Bowl last year, regular AT&T customers couldn’t access them as their phones don’t yet support LTE-Broadcast technology. Instead AT&T, [company]Qualcomm[/company] and [company]Samsung[/company] rigged up a few dozen Galaxy Note 3 devices with the necessary firmware to receive the multicast signal and demoed them at the event. LTE-Broadcast, however, is part of the LTE standard so future smartphones and tablets should support the technology natively.

AT&T LTE-Broadcast graphic

So why mess around with LTE-broadcast when 4G networks are perfectly capable of delivering the same content over individual streams to today’s devices? It’s a much more efficient way to deliver high-bandwidth content to masses of people in the same place.

Consequently big events like football games are the ideal use case. Everyone wants to see the replay of that touchdown. Instead of thousand devices requesting the same content as individual streams from the same few cell towers – overloading the network in the process – the LTE-Broadcast network sends it as a single transmission. Everyone sees a high-quality video and the network uses only a fraction of its overall bandwidth.


Football playoffs, Super Bowl XLVIII to be streamed online for (mostly) free

Good news, sports fans: Variety reports that NBC, CBS and FOX will be offering online live streams of the NFL postseason and Super Bowl XLVIII, with most content freely available. NBC’s wildcard games, as well as coverage of the Pro Bowl later this month, will be streamed live for free. Similarly, CBS’s coverage of all AFC playoff games will be free to watch online via CBSSports.com for the first time ever. As for FOX, Variety says that NFC games will be free behind a “TV Everywhere” paywall (Fox didn’t confirm), but will offer the big game, including the halftime show with Bruno Mars, online and via mobile at no cost.

E.W. Scripps acquires video news service Newsy for $35 million

Old News, meet New News: E.W. Scripps has announced that it will acquire video-journalism-for-hire startup Newsy for $35 million, with the deal expected to be finalized by January of next year. Newsy has made a name for itself by producing news videos alongside content for websites like the Huffington Post, Mashable and Microsoft, essentially providing a broadcast news team on commission. That strategy will be used to provide video content for the digital versions of the many daily papers E.W. Scripps still owns across the country, a needed service as local papers struggle to keep up online.