Why Facebook could represent the future of TV

Recently I wrote an article around how excited I was that Facebook was introducing Instant Articles to its timeline as a new feature.

Instant Articles, for those of you that missed the announcement, provides publishers with the ability to display their articles and media content within the Facebook ecosystem, eradicating the eight-second click through rate, and increasing dwell time on the social network. Since the announcement BBC News and the Guardian in the UK have signed up to the initiative.

The prospect that this feature could be developed into one that could offer a real solution for ailing TV ratings globally, particularly for key youth demographic 16-34, is one that fills me, as a someone championing the Social TV space, with complete excitement.

Yes, the first screen is and will still dominant amongst all demographics, and set to still be by 2020, going by the research undertaken by Enders Analysis below.

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That said it’s this 58 minutes a day of the 16-24 (31.5 per cent of all daily viewing) age group, and the 51 minutes of the 24-34 (24.2 per cent of all daily viewing) age group that really cannot be ignored as a representative proportion that are consuming content on other screens over and above traditional TV consumption routes.

An example that starkly proves the shift in viewing habits of younger demographics is the recent article published in AdWeek around the MTV VMAs 2015 social engagement and viewing figures:

“Just over 5 million viewers watched the MTV Video Music Awards on the main network Sunday night— a new low that dates to 1994, when MTV began using Nielsen to track its audience levels, and down 3 million viewers from the 2014 show.”

A concern for MTV in the traditional content consumption sense for sure – however:

“The VMAs were the most-tweeted nonsports program since at least October 2011, when Nielsen Social began tracking Twitter TV activity. In the US, 2.2 million people sent 21.4 million tweets, up 69 percent from last year.

Now this is where I feel Facebook can really own the social TV space and provide an exciting solution.

By providing a social TV offering that creates a bridge to bring broadcast content into its platform, where users can see what their friends are watching, I’m convinced Facebook WILL drive tune-in and provide a consumption solution.

It is no secret that the power of referral from our friends, family and peers helps us make purchasing and viewing decisions. Having one social platform that lets us see live schedules and the content friends are watching in real-time would provide a superb environment to capitalise on where this 16-34 demographic are active. Moreover, this also provides great insight for advertisers using social analysis technology to see how viewers end up at the content location on Facebook: commercial win.

Facebook has had a desire to more effectively enter into the social TV space to rival Twitter for some time. Snapchat has also made some great creative advances in this space but does not have the desktop interface or global reach to tackle this issue effectively, despite being able to provide fantastic behind the scenes and exclusive supplementary content to enhance the programme presence.

Twitter, without doubt, provides a great platform for real-time commentary and even provides a great global voting platform for shows like The Brit Awards, which I had the privilege of championing, but it cannot display video/streamed content in a way that Facebook can.

This is where I feel Facebook can own this space and provide a solution to a real concern amongst broadcast professionals as we move into a new phase of broadcast content consumption.

Yes, the first screen will continue to dominate across all demographics for many years to come, however if Facebook was to act now it could provide a complementary lifeline to ensure broadcast content is consumed on a platform where people are socially engaging. Facebook could become the Social TV content platform of choice, increasing the purpose and relevance for what people use the social network for – great news for shareholders and for the future of Facebook in the Media/TV space.

A social network that could drive tune-in and provide extra commercial opportunity which in turn would result in less ‘millennial fear’ and more creative reward… now that to me sounds like a REAL solution.