Last month my work with Plot Media took a deep dive into the unchartered waters of Facebook LIVE. While the video streaming capability only launched on the Australian platform this February, since hearing of its soft launch on the USA app for power users, Facebook Mentions, I've been waiting for a killer example of its branded use to hit headlines.
So when VICE Australia approached us with a lot of questions about how to produce a 4x4hr Facebook Live broadcast, for eBay Australia—I jumped at the chance to figure out how.
There weren't many use cases of multi-camera or four hour broadcast. There was Buzzfeed's 'watermelon explosion' experiment, and EA Sports coverage managed to combine some graphic overlays, but the live capability allows for up to four straight hours of uninterrupted stream: these popular examples were one hour duration at most.
'eBay Hump Shopping Network' would not be an iPhone-only stream. We would have to use the full four hours to sell real products in real time, adopting an informercial-meets-late-night show format, each Wednesday evening in June. (Ie. The 'hump' day of the 'hump' month). That's 16 hours of live improvised content, no worries.
To achieve this, I led a week-long creative development with a room full of polymath comedians (Holly Austin and The Suitcase Royale) at Plot Media HQ, plastering our breakout room with cue cards. By the end, we had devised a repeatable segment strategy that included pre-recorded segments, segment introductions with jingles, musical interludes, special guests, green screen crossovers and memorable character hosts—all for mounting a live studio broadcast that could, critically, support live audience interactivity.
That's a multi-camera, vision-switching, teleprompter job right there. If we could produce it, who or how could we adapt a studio setup to speak with Facebook Live?
I looked into various publishing tools or OBS (Open Broadcast Software) available, such as Vidpresso, Lighstream and Open Broadcast. We soon realised we were ultimately looking for a holistic studio package—studio, crew, equipment, operations and broadcast to eBay Australia's Facebook page.
The only fully equipped studio we could find (convince) to do this with us in Melbourne was Channel 31, who use Lightstream software. Remarkably, they've been transitioning out of community television (#RIP) and into the digital streaming sphere by leading online steaming projects for major networks and clients, both onsite and for remote broadcast. Who knew we'd really use that backup satellite signal? Channel 31 did.
There were plenty of teething issues testing the limit of Facebook's four hour live streaming capability, so it really worked to our favour that the show was improvised by our trooper talent. When Buzzfeed Australia called it, 'Barely scripted, brash and brutally unhinged...' they were absolutely right. What a riot.
The show combined improvised comedy with morning show tropes to promote eBay deals—testing the very limits of Facebook’s new LIVE streaming capability to successfully crack open the format for brands. The possibilities from here are enormous.