Facebook's Live videos are catching on with users, but there's one big problem

Facebook is betting big on Live, the new video broadcasting tool that it introduced about eight months ago.

Live lets any Facebook user instantly became a star, a newscaster or a witness by streaming their phone’s video feed for the world to watch in real time. It’s already been used for serious events like the attempted military coup in Turkey and the shooting death of Philando Castile, as well as for lighter fare like the famous Chewbacca Mum video.

But how popular is Live among Facebook’s ordinary users?

Business Insider conducted an informal, unscientific survey of roughly 45 typical Facebook users from all over the United States, ranging between ages 19 and 62, to get a sense of how often they used Live and what they think of it.

The results show that Live has already made important headway establishing itself as part of the entertainment mix that people enjoy on Facebook. But the survey also highlights a big problem Facebook may face as it tries to fill the internet airwaves with a steady stream of interesting content.

Nearly half of the people we spoke to said they have already tuned into as many as ten Live videos when the videos were actually streaming in real time.

Facebook users can also watch replays of the Live videos in their Newsfeeds, and the majority of Facebook users say they have watched such clips, with roughly 7 out of 10 people saying they had watched replays of the Live videos.

It’s worth noting that this survey was conducted slightly before the Diamond Reynolds video of the Castile shooting went viral, meaning that some of the “no” respondents may have since watched a replay of that that particular Live clip on Facebook.

Although watching videos already is becoming more common among Facebook users, creating a Live video is decidedly not. Almost no one who took our survey had ever made their own Live video. The cut off answers below are “No, but I’ve been in a friend’s video,” and “Yes, but through a work account.”

This lack of user generated Live videos may explain Facebook’s efforts to enlist professionals.

Facebook is paying celebrities and news outlets to create Live Videos, divvying out more than $50 million to publications like BuzzFeed and The New York Times (as well as Business Insider) and public figures like swimmer Michael Phelps and “Star Trek” actor George Takei, according to the Wall Street Journal.

To Citron Research’s Andrew Left, the strategy of paying for videos makes Facebook like more like a content business and highlights why he thinks Live is such a big priority for Facebook: It needs to keep engagement.

Left has been shorting Facebook’s stock since its first quarter earnings report, citing competition from Snapchat as a major reason.

“I don’t need to check my Instagram every half hour — there’s a difference between keeping up with my friends and stalking my friends. And [Facebook] knows that!” Left tells Business Insider. “And that’s why they need to produce this content. Why would they spend these millions of dollars on this if all you wanted to see was, ‘What did Andrew eat for dinner last night?'”

“They understand the fact that they have to expand beyond social media,” says Left.


There’s plenty of competition in the battle to replace TV as the go-to destination for live video.

Facebook is the most popular live-streaming outlet for the people surveyed, closely followed by Snapchat:

People most often find Live Videos through their friends, or after getting a notification from a person or Page that they follow.

Similarly, Facebook tells Business Insider that its official numbers show that 48% of all video watch time comes from shares:

Most people don’t know that Facebook is paying certain publications to make Live videos.

In an open format follow-up question we asked whether that changed people’s opinions of Live, and the response was a resounding “nope.”

“It doesn’t change my opinion necessarily,” one 23-year-old wrote, “But it does make me wonder why FB is trying so hard to force something that no one is asking for.”

Wall Street will likely grill Facebook on how it plans to make money from Live when the company reports its Q2 earnings on July 27.

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