Facebook Is Getting Serious About Original Programming With “Facebook Live”

“House Of Cards” proved that great, exclusive content can create loyal customers. While Facebook isn’t about to produce TV shows, it tells me that it plans to ramp up production of its Facebook Live original programming starting with a talk with Star Trek celebrities today at 5:15 p.m. PST. Comedian Andy Samberg will interview film director JJ Abrams and classic cast member and social media maven George Takei.

Randi Zuckerberg, CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, started Facebook Live in 2010. A website and Facebook app powered by Livestream, Facebook Live streams talks and offers an archive of past video clips. Users can discuss the videos in real time with other users and ask questions. Facebook Live moderators then pick from submitted questions, name-check the people who ask them, and pose them to the celebrities.

255790_227944710549753_407419_nIt featured Randi’s interviews with celebrities, as well as instructional talks on Facebook’s products and marketing tools. Later it would host Facebook’s election coverage, including Barack Obama’s town hall talk at Facebook headquarters in 2011. Over the years, Oprah Winfrey, Vin Diesel, Madonna, astronaut Ron Garan, and Israeli President Shimon Peres all came on the air.

For the last six months, though, Facebook Live has been pretty quiet. Since Bravo’s Andy Cohen interviewed Rihanna in November, the only video it’s added was from the Facebook Home launch event. While fascinating to tech insiders, there wasn’t much wide appeal.

But now, the social network is putting Facebook Live back in gear. A Facebook spokesperson for the project tells me “Facebook Live is something we’ll be utilizing more.” While more shoots haven’t been lined up, they should come at a brisker pace.

Facebook Live Screenshot

Why invest in original programming? “The purpose of Facebook Live is to give fans an opportunity to interact with public figures and give the public figures a global platform to present how they are using Facebook [or are engaged in conversations happening on Facebook] in an authentic way,” is the rather dry answer I got from the spokesperson.

But digging a bit deeper, Facebook Live accomplishes several strategic goals for the team at 1 Hacker Way. First, it can turn fans of the stars that Live brings on air into more frequent Facebook users. On the flip side, it can turn celebrities into more hard-core Facebook content creators. Facebook wants to be the place where people follow their favorite public figures, but it needs them posting frequently.

Facebook Live LogoMost importantly, though, it demonstrates Facebook’s potential as a live events discussion platform. Becoming the second screen to important global events can generate tons of time-on-site and engagement. This has historically been Twitter’s domain thanks to its unfiltered, real-time feed, but Facebook wants a piece of the pie.

If you have a great time chatting with other Star Trek fans today, maybe you’ll choose Facebook to discuss the next Star Trek TV show premiere rather than on its 140-character competitor. With the potential to promote them to a billion people, Facebook shouldn’t have much trouble getting the world’s VIPs into the revamped Facebook Live studio.