1st May 2020

POV: Facebook Updates

Background:

Facebook has announced a host of updates to its video products, the most prominent being Messenger Rooms – a new video chat capability. It has also launched Facebook Gaming, a dedicated mobile app to watch and share live gameplaying.

Details and Implications:

Messenger Rooms: Messenger Rooms on Facebook Messenger will allow up to 50 people to ‘hang out’ on a video call. The feature will be a social twist on the video conferencing space which has boomed during the current pandemic, as many countries are in some form of lockdown. Mark Zuckerberg said that he wanted to create a place to bring people together during this time. Rooms can be left ‘open’ and users will receive notifications when their friends open a Room so they can join for a chat. Room owners can control who can enter rooms and change the privacy settings. People can also join a Room even if they don’t have a Facebook account.

Video calls were previously available on Facebook Messenger but the Rooms feature adds a new social level to video conferencing. The feature will eventually integrate with all messenger services and AR will be available to create backgrounds, in the same way as you can personalise some existing video conferencing platforms. Messenger Rooms will eventually also integrate with Facebook’s other properties including Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal.

For advertisers, Facebook’s expansion of its video capability could lead to new exciting opportunities. At the same time as Messenger Rooms being launched, Facebook also announced the expansion of IGTV to desktop, enhancements to Facebook Live and video calls being added to Facebook Dating. Facebook is creating advertising that can fit in these new environments, which are tailored towards e-commerce and can help tap into the increase in their use as more people in the world become accustomed to communicating across video.

Facebook Gaming: The Facebook Gaming App is a standalone platform to watch and create livestreaming content based around mobile games. The app, which is free, will help Facebook to reach more than 700 million of its 2.5 billion monthly users who are already engaged with gaming content. It will allow users to follow high-profile gamers, watch live gaming streams and leave comments without interacting with the rest of Facebook. To make it a more social experience, the company has also included a Connect feature that you can use to join existing gaming groups and connect with other users on the platform. The app is now available on Android with the iOS version expected to be made available soon.

Twitch and YouTube still dominate the industry and are seeing their user base increase but they have also seen the competition grow with Microsoft’s Mixer and now Facebook Gaming entering the fray. Facebook is attempting to stand out by putting a focus on mobile gaming and by making it easier for gamers to start streaming from their mobiles - the new 'Go Live’ function allows users to stream mobile games by just pressing a few buttons. For now, Facebook isn’t including ads in the app and monetisation is limited to the ‘Star’ donation function for its content creators, allowing fans to send a donation to streamers, for which it takes a commission. The company said it wanted to build its gaming audience before adding monetisation.

Summary:

These announcements come as the COVID-19 crisis has changed consumer behaviour and forced hundreds of millions of people to stay indoors and rely on digital tools for work, school and entertainment. Facebook’s expanded video offering could lead to new opportunities for advertisers and Facebook Gaming is sure to attract users and establish itself during this period. It will be an interesting addition to the market.

Further Reading

NY Times | The Verge | BBC | Mediapost | AdAge | Later | The Verge| Facebook

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