Facebook kicked off a live streaming video channel today for its 500 million users. The channel, “Facebook Live” comes off as slightly amateurish, and it doesn’t seem to be drawing many viewers yet, but it could become an effective platform for celebrities, companies, and the company itself.
Facebook Live is a slightly tricked out version of the technology Facebook used to broadcast its F8 conference earlier this year. The interface consists of a screen, an option that lets users share what they’re watching to Twitter, and a widget that lets people chat with other Facebook users watching the same thing. Users need to have a Livestream account to join the chat. Visitors also can watch previous shows.
Randi Zuckerburg, the telegenic sister of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, hosted one of the first shows on the channel. Zuckerberg is a smart, warm presence on camera. She interacted with the online audience and fielded their questions live. The feed was a bit glitchy, constantly stopping and starting, but the program was enjoyable enough. Other shows included a live talk with developers on how they code the site and a talk with Facebook’s European policy director.
Celebrity appearances may be the real attraction, though. The channel officially debuts at 6 p.m. EST today with actress America Ferrera appearing to promote her new movie “The Dry Land.” This is a whole lot of buzz that the independent film may not have received otherwise.
Why is it so important that Facebook get into the live-streaming game? The channel is embeddable on anyone’s Facebook page. This opens up a number of possibilities. Anyone who appears on the channel may want to share their video, thereby increasing the amount of time people spend on their page. Companies with products to sell may seek a way onto the channel for this exact purpose. Celebrities and even politicians wanting to reach out to their fans/constituents may also find value in appearing on the channel.
Could this be a way for Facebook to shed some of its monolithic reputation? The channel could have a humanizing effect on the company, which has been criticized over privacy concerns and legal troubles. Today an engineer told a story about an employee who was well known for sleeping all day on a couch at Palo Alto headquarters, but only working at night. Choosing the likable sister of the company’s CEO to host shows is also inspired. Whether or not the channel becomes more professional or truly humanizes the company remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if you find your time slipping away while watching the live stream.