NAB 2017

NAB Reflections: Telescope CEO Jason George on the Power of Facebook Live and Monetization Opportunities to Come

Live Studio solution helps add layers of professionalism to social-streaming productions

At NAB 2017, Telescope showed off its solutions that help content creators become better storytellers in a live-streaming and social-streaming environment.

One of the major highlights for Telescope is taking its Live Studio product — launched last year in coordination with the expansion of Facebook Live with the opening of its API — and taking that to the next level with cloud production tools and services. 

SVG sat down with CEO Jason George at his booth to discuss the growth of his business and the rise in live–social-streaming technology.

Telescope CEO Jason George

How does Telescope fit with a client when it comes to making the leap to a more professional type of social video? A lot of content creators are of the mindset that their phone is all they need to go into Facebook Live. So what type of client is ready to make that leap, and how do your solutions help
It’s really going from amateur or pro-am to being more professional. So anybody, like you said, can go stream on Facebook through their mobile phone. What they can’t do is add graphics; what they can’t do is schedule that live stream so they start to let their audience know about it. What they can’t do is monetize that through branded content. And, after the stream is finished, they can’t go back to all those people that have come to the stream and retarget them.

That’s really where people are ready to take that step up. It could be any one of those things or all of them. That’s where we come in. I think, on top of that, while it doesn’t apply to everybody, there’s quite a lot of tools that have kind of a pure self-service tool, but, actually, a lot of people want some level of service. They want to know somebody’s on the end of the phone supporting the stream, or they might want somebody there who is making sure the setups are working. They might want to moderate content or create some interactivity. That’s what we bring as well.

The thing is the technology plus the service and support. We’ve been around for 15 years, and we’ve got a reasonably substantial base of people.

Why do you think Telescope was in position to pounce so quickly when Facebook Live really blossomed last year? You seemed to be one of the first companies doing this kind of support.
I think Facebook wants partners that are going to do stuff like [we are doing]. Be at NAB and push their products along with Facebook Live. I think there’s partly a scale argument there. We obviously have a fairly big development team.

They gave it seven weeks before F8 last year. They came to partners and said, We want to have products available. Seven weeks isn’t that long, but we have a reasonably substantial base of developers [and] could shift some resource and get a product ready in that seven weeks. They came to us because we’re close partners of theirs and they knew we could move quickly and actually get a product out there. I think [it also] comes down to that marketing support. They obviously want partners that they know can scale with their product.

It’s been an incredible year on that score with Facebook Live. We’ve done 250 engagements, roughly 100 new products. We’ve had 4,000 inquiries, and those are just inbound inquiries.

Again, clearly, if you’re a one-man or two-man [company], you can’t move that quickly. I think Facebook wants those sorts of partners not just for that initial launch; they’ve released an incredible amount of capability into the API over the full 12 months.

Have you been having more conversations with people about monetization? Are you finding that once the streaming is reliable and that experience is rock solid, you can move up into the next level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and start customizing it, hyper-personalizing it, and monetizing it?
That’s a great point that, first of all, people want the stability and quality of the streaming. That’s absolutely right, and that’s obviously the first focus to create a good product. [As for] the monetization thing, it’s still quite early days.

Facebook is obviously experimenting, and I think a lot of customers don’t necessarily grasp the branded-content piece yet, and there’s some substantial things packaged together. There’s obviously the social kind of promotion and the algorithm of a tagged brand, but there’s also all the graphics and everything else pulled up within that stream.

I think it starts with educating sales teams that they can now sell this, and the fact that you can keep all the revenue is part of that. The second thing is trialing midroll [advertisements]. I think monetization is the next big step, and, once the media companies really see revenue from that, they’ll start to do more, and they’ll start to improve the quality.

So yes, I think [for] everyone — certainly the established publishers and broadcasters — monetization’s a big focus. They’ve probably experimented with live; they’ve seen success with it in terms of numbers. Now the question is, we want to make money.

As you said, Facebook Live is still very new, but, obviously, live streaming is certainly not. How much of a shot in the arm do you think live social streaming has given the industry, and is the industry moving faster in your opinion?
[Facebook has] definitely been a big accelerator of the industry. I personally worked on streaming projects around entertainment shows like Big Brother back in around 2000. Obviously, part of that is just the infrastructure. If we got 20,000 people on the stream in those days, it was like the internet’s going to fall over. So, clearly, somebody’s been working a way to build the foundations.

I think that live streaming and operating sites is still a big and important thing. There are other people out there, like YouTube, Twitter, Periscope (who we also were with), but I think, when we generally run streams and compare against other platforms, Facebook is pretty dominant. Obviously, they’ve got scale, and they’ve got the ability to drive promotion and awareness of your stream. I think we broadly see 50% of viewers coming from a share. That’s the power of a Facebook.

In terms of kinds of things to expect over the next year, I think the monetization piece is going to be very important. It’s actually increasing the volume and quality of streams. I think, also, we’re going to see that the graphics side of this is really important and leads to greater engagement.

I think one of the real strong suits for Facebook, particularly, is that kind of native engagement. We spent a lot of time, as I mentioned earlier, on broadcast, trying to build interactivity into broadcast streams. Ideally, you’ll get from broadcast to a second-screen device. Then you’re hopefully getting something back from the main broadcast. It’s an incredibly frustrating, complicated, and expensive process, and now it’s all in that one screen. That engagement is native to it. So people are engaging in a very organic way with that content. Harnessing [that] power [to] have more-appropriate two-way interactivity so that content is, in real time, getting referenced may be precious for the home audience.