CNN, Fandango Build Facebook Messenger Automated Chat ‘Bots’

CNN Facebook Messenger bot
Courtesy of Facebook

CNN and NBCUniversal’s Fandango are among the first in the media and entertainment biz to tap into Facebook Messenger “bots,” which let users get automated info from artificial-intelligence agents.

The CNN bot for Facebook Messenger provides news and information in personalized, private messages. Fandango’s still-in-development bot will provide ticketing — marking the first time users can buy tickets to all movies on Fandango via Facebook — and access to movie information, trailers, showtimes and theater locations.

Facebook unveiled the new Messenger platform and bot features at its F8 developer conference Tuesday. “We think you should be able to message a business in the same way you message a friend,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the event.

Bots can provide anything from automated subscription content — like weather and traffic updates — to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications and live automated messages. Facebook says more than 900 million people worldwide use Messenger monthly, and communicate with some 50 million businesses.

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CNN was one of the featured Facebook partners for the launch of Messenger bots, along with 1-800-Flowers, weather and travel service Poncho and online retailer Spring.

CNN created its Facebook Messenger bots in partnership with Outbrain. Subscribers to CNN on Messenger will receive a daily digest of top stories within the Messenger app, and the bot also will recommend personalized content based on a user’s preferences.

In addition, users can send text to the CNN bot to get instant news and information about specific topics. For example, sending the message “delegate count” will return a the lead and link to CNN’s latest story about which U.S. presidential candidates have accumulated the most delegates heading into the national conventions.

Fandango plans to launch its bot for Facebook Messenger in May. “The Fandango bot on Messenger will act like a personal concierge, helping fans instantly discover movies and nearby theaters, and for the first time, connect to all Fandango show times and ticketing through Facebook,” said Fandango president Paul Yanover.

Fandango has more than 2 million followers across several Facebook pages, plus channels on Facebook Notify, where it provides movie news, trailers and movie clips, original video and fan art, as well as ticketing offers and promotions.

To prevent spamming by the Messenger bots, Facebook said it has developed a new suite of controls and policies. For example, users will be able to block communications that they don’t want to receive. In addition, the company will have “strict policies for developers and businesses to uphold, and we will have review processes to ensure we carefully evaluate how our community is responding,” David Marcus, Facebook VP of messaging products, wrote in a blog post.

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