Facebook will again be the exclusive social network to live-stream ABC’s Oscars red-carpet and backstage coverage on Sunday — but overall, live broadcasts by Facebook’s paid media partners have fallen dramatically in the past year, after it ended the program.
Facebook will host the live stream of “The Oscars: All Access” from the pages of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and ABC, kicking off at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT on Sunday, March 4, ahead of the main event at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. ET on ABC. The show also will be live-streamed on Oscar.com and ABCNews.com.
Live video on Facebook, however, has not necessarily turned out to be the Next Big Thing that CEO Mark Zuckerberg believed it was when he pushed the company to launch Facebook Live two years ago.
Facebook tried to seed the live-broadcasting feature by paying a group of media partners to produce Facebook Live programming. From April 2016-March 2017, 17 media partners in the program published 1,041 Facebook Live sessions per month on average, according to an analysis by Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. That dropped in half over the next nine months — and in December 2017, there were fewer than 400 Facebook Live broadcasts among those partners.
One reason: Facebook last year stopped paying media partners and celebrities it had enlisted to create live video programming, a program it initiated in 2016. Separately, Facebook Live became an unwanted flash point when users began using it to share disturbing and violent content.
Facebook insists that Live is actually performing well on the platform, especially among regular users. For example, the company said on New Year’s Eve this year, more than 10 million people worldwide used Facebook Live to share celebrations with friends and family — up 47% over 2017.
For longer-form, ad-supported premium content, Facebook’s Watch has now taken the front seat of the social giant’s strategy to push users to watch more video (and video ads).
Live is still a key plank of the platform, and live programming like ABC’s Oscars companion show is now featured in the Facebook Watch tab and pages. For example, the Academy’s Facebook presence has been converted to a Watch Show page, currently with 2.7 million followers.
For ABC and the Academy, tapping Facebook again on distributing Oscars content is a no-brainer. They want maximum exposure on the year’s biggest Hollywood awards show, and has lined up a lead sponsor in AT&T for “The Oscars: All Access.” Additionally, ABC is hoping the streaming show acts as a lead-in to pull viewers to the actual broadcast, which will be available exclusively on ABC TV and ABC’s digital-streaming platforms.
Returning as hosts of “The Oscars: All Access” are Sofia Carson (“Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists,” Disney Channel’s “Descendants”) and entertainment and sports commentators Chris Connelly, Ben Lyons and Adnan Virk. They’ll be joined by newcomer actor Wesam Keesh (ABC’s upcoming legal drama “For the People”).
“The Oscars: All Access” — which won a 2017 Emmy Award for creative achievement in interactive media within an unscripted program — will incorporate footage from 20-plus cameras placed along the red carpet, backstage and in the audience at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. In addition, the Academy’s Facebook Watch show page on Tuesday began publishing special “Oscars Insider” behind-the-scenes vignettes leading up to Sunday.
Meanwhile, Facebook’s partnership with the Oscars will extend to Instagram. Tom Holland, star of Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” is set to take over the official @instagram Instagram Stories account, and the Academy will share exclusive moments of the big day on Instagram Stories and Live via @theacademy. Other celebs are also expected to post to the platform before, during and after the event.
The 90th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air live on ABC starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on March 4. It will live-streaming on ABC.com and the ABC app to users who log in with pay-TV account credentials.