How publishers are making money from Facebook Live

Publishers are getting creative about how to make money from Facebook Live.

Facebook officially opened its doors to branded content this April, letting media owners publish advertorials, either co-created with brands or sponsored by them, to their verified Facebook pages. There’s also the option to run short ad breaks within Facebook Live videos, though this is just running with a handful of test publishers. And while there hasn’t been an avalanche of publishers running sponsored live videos — most are just figuring out how to develop audiences for Facebook Live — some are starting to see dollar signs.

Business Insider and News UK are among them. Facebook applies the same rules for media owners commercializing its live video product as to its fast-loading tool Instant Articles. And yet, few publishers have reported major revenue upticks from Instant Articles. For some, Facebook Live is where the real commercial opportunity lies.

“Live content has the potential to be more lucrative and the option for brand integration was there from the start,” said Business Insider U.K. managing director Julian Childs. “Facebook’s approach with publishers has been more collaborative on Live than with Instant Articles, which is a welcome change.”

Business Insider U.K., which had 80 million Facebook video views in July, according to Tubular Labs data, ran two branded content Live videos at around the same period. One of the videos came out of a wider branded-content partnership with General Electric and included a Live interview from its in-house content studio, BI Studios, which delved into the major tech advancements on display at the Farnborough Airshow during the summer.

The second fell into the more typical sponsorships bucket, with Adobe underwriting all editorially independent Facebook Live videos made during Cannes Lions festival this summer. These included a tour of News Corp’s yacht in the harbor, and a 15-minute wrap-up at the end by Business Insider U.K. editors Jim Edwards and Lara O’Reilly.

And the publisher has plenty more branded content Facebook Live conversations with advertisers cooking, according to Childs. “Overall, the potential is there to work with brands around certain topics. With practically zero technology barrier we can publish live and have tens to hundreds of thousands of viewers watching, commenting and sharing the content straight away. That’s a powerful vehicle that more forward-thinking brands like General Electric can take advantage of in a smart way,” he added. Business Insider also retains all revenue made this way.

Running branded content on Facebook Live isn’t for the faint of heart, though. If a publisher prefers the more unpolished look for its live videos, as opposed to the TV-like production quality some outlets take, advertisers must be on board with that. “The challenges are obvious because you’re immediately exposed in a live environment,” said Childs. “If you get that audience experience right, along with good monetization options for brands and publishers, you have something worthwhile.” BI is now working on how to create more native ad experiences with Facebook Live, he added.

News UK, which owns national newspapers The Times and The Sun, ran its first branded Facebook Live video for its fantasy football arm Dream Team, which had 60 million Facebook video views in September, according to Tubular Labs data. The 50-minute video, published two weeks ago, was for the beta version of popular game Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and tapped into the eSports phenomenon. In the video, YouTube gamer Wizzite played the game, which hasn’t yet been released. Viewers were encouraged to interact by guessing things like the number of kills in the stream to win a PlayStation 4 and a copy of the game. The video generated more than 200,000 views, and 1,400 likes.

The publisher has invested a lot in video creation in the year since dropping its paywall, and social video, particularly on Facebook, is central to its strategy. Speaking at Digiday’s publishing summit last week, News UK head of digital Oliver Lewis said he’s confident that Facebook Live can yield meaningful revenue for publishers in future, and that the Call of Duty video is just the start.

Facebook Live is appealing to advertisers hoping to tap into major cultural live events. “That appointment-to-view-type scenario that was there for advertisers before the ability to pause and record live TV, has pretty much died, said Dan Chapman, MediaCom head of digital strategy for EMEA.

That means the live aspect of Facebook Live, represents a “phenomenal” opportunity for brands to measure the impact of their campaigns and tap into mass cultural moments, he added. “The reason people still sponsor the Super Bowl isn’t just because of the reach but because it’s a moment of cultural significance, and there is limited space” he said. “And live streaming, specifically within eSports, is massive.”

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