A Facebook TV Timeline—Yes Please!

The announcement  last month that Facebook was optimising users’ Timelines so that publishers could bring their stories and articles to life in new and innovative ways has thrown me into a creative frenzy!

The Facebook announcement reveals: 

Instant Articles introduces a suite of interactive features that allow publishers to bring their stories to life in new ways. Zoom in and explore high-resolution photos by tilting your phone. Watch auto-play videos come alive as you scroll through stories. Explore interactive maps, listen to audio captions, and even like and comment on individual parts of an article in-line.

Clearly the benefit of this from a publisher’s perspective is huge: 

Publishers can sell ads in their articles and keep the revenue, or they can choose to use Facebook’s Audience Network to monetize unsold inventory.

It’s a smart move from Facebook to encourage publishers to place more content in the Facebook timeline. Moreover, from a user experience perspective, it means fans remain on the Facebook platform longer— a potentially huge step toward capturing more of today’s audience’s fractured attention. 

Now this, as a Social TV creative, hugely excites.

While Facebook has launched Instant Articles with a select set of publishers, I see it as a step closer to eventually streaming TV shows within the Facebook Timeline.  Adding an interactive layer within the environment will be far easier, with Instant Articles as a guide. 

Imagine seeing, in real time, which of your friends are watching a given show, what they are saying, and how they are interacting. What’s more, show content and fan interaction can be seen on the go.

Could this mean scheduled TV content from multiple channels in one place? Could this mean that Facebook becomes the go-to platform for broadcast content? Will the draw of content that your friends and family are watching entice users to the platform more frequently? I believe so.

Just as Instant Articles sparked a healthy conversation in the publishing world about what this means for journalism and content distribution, a TV-filled Timeline would raise potential issues over broadcast programme rights. I’d anticipate Facebook would make similarly appealing terms to broadcasters and content makers as it did with Publishers for Instant Articles. Only time will tell, but seems like its too lucrative an opportunity to pass up for the social network, in my opinion. 

Broadcasters scheduling specific content exclusively for Facebook audiences could become a reality. There is nothing more powerful than the recommendation of friends and family. This already works well for brands leveraging the power of friend referral to purchase goods and services. Creating a simultaneous viewing environment for TV shows is something relatively untapped in the Social TV world. Imagine seeing 4, 5 or more friends watching a specific piece of TV content in real time—the creative possibilities to activate those viewers at a deeper level is huge both editorially and commercially.

If Facebook were to move in this direction with broadcast content then having a TV timeline tab on your News Feed may not be unexpected. Imagine seeing all your social TV content prioritised by number of friends watching, in one place—a truly social TV platform. 

Cue Facebook stepping up to the Social TV plate. It’s going to be an exciting space to watch. I hope.

The pace of innovation in the social media industry shows no signs of slowing. Download the Smart Social Report Vol. 1 for insights on the state of social in 2015.

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