As Facebook’s video platform is getting increased attention as a way to debut new episodes, the social media giant has also been working with programmers to develop a number of new tools to help them better engage audiences.
The tools are important for both broadcasters and Facebook because of increasingly close ties between TV and social media, noted Bob Morgan, director of media partner engineering at Facebook, who heads a team that has developed a number of tools to help TV companies easily use the social media platform to build closer ties to their audiences.
“Accenture has data showing that 87% of consumers use a second screen device while watching TV,” Morgan said. Other data from Millward Brown shows Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform associated with TV viewing, with 85% of those using social media while watching TV on Facebook.
“Facebook usage peaks in primetime in every country and the maximum daily Facebook audience occurs at the same time as the maximum TV viewing audience,” Morgan continued. “In our trending topics TV is very regularly at the top. So, we see a very strong correlation between TV and social media that we want to build on.”
The official rollout of the new tools occurred on Oct. 6, when Facebook was demoing a number of the features at the MIPCOM programming market in Cannes, France. But a number of these features have been tested with a variety of networks, from HBO’s Project Greenlight to the Fox/Facebook GOP Debate on Aug. 6.
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The new offerings include Native Polling and a Hashtag Voting API. They allow for certified voting at unique hashtags or at hashtag triggers that are connected to outside providers who tabulate and certify the voting on contest and award shows.
Telescope is the first company to adopt the API and deliver the voting solution on Facebook, noted Telescope CEO Jason George.
Another notable new feature was Facebook Photo and Video Submission, which was used during the Aug. 6 GOP debate. That tool allowed people to submit more than 40,000 video questions via a viewer submission app through Facebook powered by Telescope.
Another new tool is the Facebook Video Gallery— also developed with Telescope—that allows programmers to create HTML5 galleries. This was used in HBO’s Project Greenlight to showcase the short films that had been submitted for the program.
George noted that in addition to news and entertainment applications for the video and photo submission tools, “we are also hearing from sports networks that they would like to air video and fan reactions and there is interest in gaming content as well.”
Finally, Facebook has added “Custom Icons,” which allow fans to use icons for a specific show like the Oscars, the Emmys, Bachelorette or Rugby World Cup to share the fact that they are watching the show.
All of this is part of an ongoing effort to simplify the ways that programmers can use Facebook and builds on a number of previously announced tools, Morgan stressed.
This is important because programmers initially struggled to integrate social media tools into their broadcasts, given the very different infrastructures used for digital media like Facebook and traditional TV technologies.
“To make [social media] as integrated as possible it takes a number of parties to be involved and committed to making it work,” Morgan said. “It is very gratifying to see different parts of the eco system working together to make this more efficient for broadcast to move content and data from digital environments and get it onto broadcast much more easily than it was a few years ago.”
As part of that effort, Facebook has been working with a number of traditional broadcast vendors like Vizrt, which has integrated Facebook into its graphics. The launch of the new APIs should make it even easier to meld together broadcast and social media content, Morgan explained.