- Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is “obsessed” with live video.
Over the last several months, he’s streamed dozens of moments, including a Q&A with Jerry Seinfeld that has more views than almost any live video on Facebook, clocking in at 9.6 million streams.
But while Zuckerberg clearly sees great value in “going live,” most people don’t, highlighting one of the challenges to Facebook’s big push.
Data from Tubular Labs, a video-intelligence-software company that tracks activity from Facebook Pages, shows that while live-video views are steadily increasing, the number of streams and the number of accounts making them haven’t seen the same spike.
There were actually slightly fewer live-streamed videos in June than there were in May, and the number of accounts live broadcasting increased by only 40,000 from May to June, versus 115,000 between April and May:
- Tubular Labs
It’s important to note that views are also cumulative to date – for example, all Live streams from June have 6.8 billion views total now versus by June 30, though Facebook has said that Live videos get most of their views when they are live.
Facebook declined to comment on the accuracy of Tubular’s numbers.
While numbers alone can’t tell us why the number of accounts streaming hasn’t started increasing more slowly, there’s one obvious theory: It’s really hard for people to be interesting when they’re appearing in live videos.
Mark Zuckerberg’s big video bet could suffer from the same fundamental problem that’s hurt Twitter: the issue of only having a vocal minority.
Twitter’s stock has tanked over the last year because of its lack of user growth. There’s a relatively small group of people producing a lot of content. Even if other people are viewing it, they’re not producing their own.
Changing business model?
Meanwhile, Facebook is paying certain 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.
It’s also reportedly facing a decline in original sharing, which was down 21% year-over-year in mid-2015, according to leaked documents seen by The Information’s Amir Efrati.
That’s a big warning sign to analyst Andrew Left, who has been shorting the company’s stock since its April earnings report.
“What makes Facebook a great business is that they don’t have to produce the content – the users produce it, and Facebook sells ads and makes money,” he says. “But now we’re seeing them pay for content all of a sudden. And then that’s becoming a different business, isn’t it?”
Even when Facebook stops explicitly paying organizations and celebrities to experiment with live videos, it has still promised to find some way to split revenue with its biggest content creators.
If only a small number of accounts ends up posting live videos, but they’re all regular streams that expect a cut of Facebook’s ad revenue – similar to how YouTube gives creators a cut of its ad dollars – then Facebook’s booming new video business doesn’t seem quite as attractive as it would otherwise.
[Correction: An original version of this post was mistaken about what Tubular’s numbers tracked. The post has been updated accordingly.]