Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) has altered an algorithm to push live video streams to the top of users' news feeds. And the move is sure to ramp up traffic on mobile networks.
Facebook launched its Live Video feature for iOS users in January, and the offering is gradually being deployed on Android devices. The Periscope-like offering enables users to broadcast live video to other Facebook users and watch the broadcasts of others without needing a separate app.
"Now that more and more people are watching Live videos, we are considering Live Videos as a new content type -- different from normal videos -- and learning how to rank them for people in News Feed," Facebook employees Vibhi Kant and Jie Xu wrote in a blog post. "As a first step, we are making a small update to News Feed so that Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when those videos are actually live, compared to after they are no longer live. People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that's no longer live."
Facebook is second only to YouTube in the U.S. among online video content properties ranked by unique video viewers, according to comScore, with roughly 88 million total unique viewers. And its mobile video traffic is enormous: The company said in April that 75 percent of its users' video consumption was on mobile devices, and in November it said it was delivering 8 billion video views per day, doubling the 4 billion views it delivered in April.
And wireless network operators have noticed. Facebook's recent decision to auto-play advertisements on its mobile service dramatically increased the video load on mobile networks, according to executives from carriers and other companies.
Indeed, ever-increasing demand for mobile video is a primary reason Cisco predicts mobile data traffic will increase 800 percent over the next five years. Video will have the highest growth rate of any mobile application, Cisco predicts, and demand for increased resolution, more bandwidth and processing speed will drive adoption of 4G devices.
Facebook recently said it was developing a dedicated service that would give videos a more prominent position on its site in a move that could place the company in more direct competition with YouTube as well as carriers' own video offerings. As the social network continues to drive mobile video consumption, operators will be playing very close attention.
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