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Facebook Enhances Tools for TV Producers to Engage Fans

Facebook, eager to encourage more TV shows to use the world’s biggest social platform, has expanded the suite of tools available to producers to connect with viewers.

The new tools, which have been tested in early iterations with partners, will let TV production teams introduce live polling and voting, as well as provide the ability to more easily curate fan-submitted photos, videos and posts from Facebook and Instagram. Several of the new features are powered by Telescope, an L.A.-based broadcast audience engagement platform.

“We now have a comprehensive set of tools for broadcasters to more effectively reach their audience on Facebook,” said Bob Morgan, Facebook’s director of media partner engineering. Morgan was formerly CEO of SportStream, a sports-related social startup Facebook acquired in late 2013.

The concept of so-called “second screen” interaction with TV shows started several years ago, with a bunch of startups and networks themselves launching standalone mobile apps synced up with television airings. But increasingly, fans are connecting to TV shows — and other fans — via Facebook, Twitter and other social sites.

For Facebook, here’s a rundown of what’s new:

  • Hashtag Voting: Lets fans cast votes on Facebook in a top-level post or comment, using a hashtag (e.g., #NBABallot), designed for awards and competition shows. Telescope has adopted the Facebook API and has implemented the feature with clients including the NBA (for the All-Star voting) and Fox’s Teen Choice Awards.
  • Native Polling: Media partner Pages now support a new “Poll” status update option which allows for a photo and up to 10 choices. People can vote on the poll directly from their News Feed.
  • Photo and Video Submissions: Tool set, powered by Telescope, lets producers review and curate audience-contributed content, and post that to their show’s Page or use it in their on-air broadcasts. Fox News Channel used the feature for the Aug. 6 Republican presidential primary debate to solicit viewer videos querying candidates; the cabler received 40,000 submissions and aired select questions live during the debate.
  • Video Gallery: In conjunction with the Photo and Video Submission tools, producers can build galleries that can be embedded into Facebook Page tabs or show sites and apps. Telescope provides tools for producers to curate and organize each gallery as well as apply the show’s look and feel; it helped produce such a gallery for HBO’s “Project Greenlight” (pictured above).
  • Custom Icons: Allows an icon associated with partners’ posts to be tied to a broadcast. Facebook implemented custom icons for this year’s Academy Awards, Primetime Emmys and  ABC’s “Bachelorette,” among others.

Facebook doesn’t charge media partners to use any of the site’s engagement features, but Telescope does charge broadcasters fees for its services.

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