Facebook Paying $50 Million in Live-Video Pacts With Media Companies, Celebs (Report)

Kevin Hart
Kristi Miller/Newspix/REX/Shutterstock

Facebook is shelling out some significant coin to bring live video content to the world’s biggest social platform.

The company is paying more than $50 million to media companies including BuzzFeed, CNN, the New York Times and celebrities including Kevin Hart and Gordon Ramsay, as an incentive for them to use the Facebook Live service, the Wall Street Journal reported. That said, $50 million is a drop in the bucket for Facebook, given that it had about $6.5 billion in cash and equivalents as of the end of March.

Facebook has inked nearly 140 contracts for live video, according to the Journal, which cited a document it had obtained. Other partners include Vox Media, Tastemade, Mashable and AOL’s Huffington Post, along with public figures including Deepak Chopra and NFL quarterback Russell Wilson.

Facebook declined to confirm the amount it’s spending on the live-video initiative or individual partnerships.

For Facebook, live video has been named a top priority by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who believes the immediacy of the format will lead to even higher engagement by the service’s 1.65 billion monthly users. Zuckerberg has said Facebook is working on creating revenue-sharing models for creators who use the live video streaming.

BuzzFeed — which broadcast a live video of an exploding watermelon on Facebook in April that has drawn more than 10 million views — will receive $3.05 million uder a one-year agreement to use Facebook Live between March 2016 and March 2017, according to the WSJ report. In addition, Facebook is paying the New York Times $3.03 million and CNN $2.5 million. According to the Journal, 17 of the Facebook Live deals are worth more than $1 million.

Asked for comment, the social-media company provided a statement from Justin Osofsky, VP of global operations and media partnerships: “We announced in March that we’re testing different ways to support partners as they begin experimenting with Facebook Live. We have an early beta program for a relatively small number of partners that includes a broad range of content types from regions around the world. As part of this early test program we’re working with these partners to offer temporary financial support to encourage experimentation with this new format.”

Facebook had also been in talks with the National Football League to secure rights to “Thursday Night Football” games for the 2016-17 season, before Twitter landed global internet streaming rights to those games.

According to Facebook, its initial live-streaming partners were chosen based on a variety of different factors. Those included partners who had the capabilities to easily produce and test a variety of live programming; partners who had already experimented with live and had some early success; public figure partners who had already demonstrated an early interest in going live via the mentions app; and partners who would have relevant use-cases for live, such as breaking news, and personality driven Q&A.

“We wanted to invite a broad set of partners so we could get feedback from a variety of different organizations about what works and what doesn’t,” Osofsky said.