Facebook Live and the new television – from Steve Reich to the US vice presidential debates

Steve Reich Different Trains London Contemporary Orchestra Facebook Live

Last week I happened upon a live performance by the London Contemporary Orchestra of Steve Reich’s hypnotic and moving Different Trains.

Broadcast via Facebook Live from Edge Hill station in Liverpool, the stream – which can be viewed at the end of this post – attracted around 1,800 viewers from around the world, and has so far been viewed over 143,000 times.

Different Trains juxtaposes Reich’s rail travels of the early 1940s as a child with the trains of the Holocaust to ponder how, as a Jew, his journeys could have been very different had he been in Europe rather than the US at the time.

Commenters on the Facebook Live stream answered questions from those confused by the use of recorded voices, then as piece builds towards its climax viewers’ emotional connection with it was visible, as Likes and Loves floated along the bottom of the screen.

Launched back in April, Facebook Live is one of the frontrunners vying to become the new turbo-charged television, as the social media-enabled ‘second screen’ offered by mobile devices looks to expand its position.

Just recently Facebook and Twitter claimed the scalp of live streaming pioneer Meerkat, which exited the public space, re-emerging quickly to place its bets on private broadcasting app Houseparty.

In the last month Twitter has emerged with live ‘Twittercasts’ of big ticket US events like Thursday night NFL football, the first three games of which each attracted more than two million viewers.

Meanwhile, with a big-ticket advertising campaign in the offering for Facebook Live, Twitter’s rival social network isn’t taking things lying down (though it may need to address trust issues).

Both those channels and many others are looking to gain tractions from the presidential debates, with the first Clinton Vs Trump clash ranked as the most tweeted debate ever.

Later tonight it’ll be the turn of the vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence to go head-to-head in front of audiences watching via screens and streams of all kinds.

Two years ago the FT was asking is YouTube is the new television. Now, in this age of everything on-demand, live (with interaction) becomes an increasing point of differentiation.

With tonight’s VP debate appearing on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Buzzfeed and even traditional broadcasters, there’s certainly no shortage of rivals to be the new TV.


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