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Things get awkward for Facebook Live streaming

Last year Facebook launched its own live streaming service called Facebook Live. At first it was only active for celebrities – like Ricky Gervais who took a bath live on his Facebook page. But in January they supposedly made it available to anyone with an iPhone, and followed on Android devices in March.

Everyday people, brands and news organisations are now trying out the service. And whenever you do live streaming, there’s a chance something might go wrong. Unfortunately for Facebook, there have been two live streaming failures that have made it a bit awkward for them. Or at least they should feel that way.


The global news service Buzzfeed had an interview with President Obama scheduled in May. It was going to be broadcast live over Facebook. Just about two minutes into the video – Obama hadn’t even arrived yet – the Facebook feed went out.

I haven’t found any official explanation as to what happened exactly, but it must have felt quite awkward when Facebook viewers were redirected to YouTube to watch the live feed there instead. Maybe not so much for Buzzfeed, but for Facebook certainly.

When the glitch happened, around 35,000 viewers were watching live on Facebook. After the feed stopped only about 15,000 watched live on YouTube. Later Buzzfeed posted the recorded video back on Facebook.

The month before Buzzfeed blew up a watermelon on Facebook Live with an audience of over 800,000 without any issues at all. It was the largest audience they’d ever had for a live broadcast. They must have felt pretty confident on the setup to use it for a presidential interview.

But that’s the first lesson learned from this live streaming disaster – always have a backup. Buzzfeed were obviously already setup to live stream on YouTube since the transition was so smooth and quick. Kudos to them for knowing what they are doing (even if Facebook’s service failed them) and having a backup ready.

But the second thing to learn from the video of the interview is that you really need to plan everything out ahead of time, and then plan for the unexpected. You can watch the whole video here, but below is a screen shot of the final moments of the interview.

facebook live streaming

Notice anything? The President and the interviewer have no heads. The camera setup worked wonderfully for a sit down interview. But they didn’t plan on having the two of them stand up and shake hands at the end did they? The static camera setup couldn’t capture the whole scene when the scene unexpectedly changed. There’s an article on Adweek that noticed the same thing. The author commented on the image by saying, “Somewhere a TV producer is chuckling.”

Zuckerberg himself

Another example of the awkwardness potential of live streaming is when Mark Zuckerberg tried to demonstrate the service back in April. The stream was only live a few seconds – with around 118,000 viewers when it “went down”. People were watching from his personal page and only saw the grey couch where Zuckerberg had been sitting moments before.

According to CNBC, Facebook claimed nothing went wrong technically. Instead Zuckerberg decided to change locations before resuming the live stream. But that wasn’t obvious to everyone watching. It looked like something had glitched.

So lesson number two from the Buzzfeed example applies here too. You never know when your CEO is going to get up and decide to move the location on the fly. But if you’re live streaming, you’d better be able to handle the change if he does – and do it without looking like you were caught off guard.

Facebook Live is clearly experiencing growing pains. But given the investment they are making, it will likely become a viable video platform for certain types of video in the future. In the meantime, if you need a reliable way to live stream we’d be happy to answer your questions and get you setup on our service. Grab us on Live chat, email or via phone to speak to our helpful experts.

Oliver Burt

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