Instead of livestreaming events directly, Venue was created as a platform that allows various expert hosts – journalists, athletes, social media personalities, etc. – to host digital venues connected to live events. These experts can interact with fans while an event is going on.
The app is also designed to make it easier for users to multitask their digital events while doing other things. Venue hosts have the power to ping guests on their mobile devices when something important or memorable is going on to alert them that it’s time to tune in. Additional hosts can access something called the “moments” feature, which allows them to augment their venue with various types of uploadable content like commentaries, interactive questions, polls and short chats.
The service has been widely compared to Twitter’s live event streaming capabilities, offering fans a place to interactively gather and respond to events in real time. Twitter’s in-house curation team notably rounds up the highlights from major events, including quick summaries featuring notable tweets, video clips, photos and comments from users.
With a single host acting as the entrance to the streaming experience, Venue is designed to offer something that’s more easily located and accessible for consumption.
“With Venue, fans can stop scrolling or searching to find the exact moment everyone is reacting to,” Facebook’s New Product Experimentation (NPE) team explained of the emerging app’s functionality.
Venue is the third app launched by the NPE team. The last two were focused on collaborative music video creations and voice-only group calling. All three seem designed to respond to the present moment, offering methods to make it easier for friends, family and people with similar interests to stay connected digitally while staying home during today’s social distancing period.
Although the U.S. economy is beginning to thaw, whether consumers have an appetite to reenter the physical world remains something of an unanswered question. Activities like in-store shopping, dining in restaurants and going to crowded amusement parks will all involve restrictions on capacity and presentation.
Experts are also increasingly concerned that consumers who have had some 12 weeks to settle into comfortable digital experiences might choose to continue online rather than return to a severely constrained brick-and-mortar world.
Venue will get its first test drive with consumers when NASCAR launches a “Food City Presents the Supermarket Heroes 500” race this Sunday (May 31). It will be hosted by social media personality Nascarcasm.
The race’s broadcast presentation will be the only way for consumers to see the event this weekend. Although NASCAR has plans to get up and racing again earlier than many other sports, this weekend’s race won’t have an in-person audience.
But according to Tim Clark, NASCAR’s senior vice president and chief digital officer, the racing league has plenty of faith in Venue. NASCAR believes that Venue has the power to draw users to events digitally, while the exciting world of in-person racing remains on hold. Clark also believes Venue will be key in keeping NASCAR fans connected as the world adjusts to a new version of normal.
“As NASCAR makes its return to action over the coming weeks, Venue will provide users with a unique and exciting way to connect with fellow race fans from around the globe – all from the safety and comfort of their own homes,” Clark said.
Facebook noted that broadcasts of live events present a rare opportunity for people to digitally come together to consume content together as a shared experience. “Despite drawing large concurrent viewership, live broadcasts are still a mostly solo viewing experience,” Facebook noted when unveiling Venue.
That particular statement could be considered a stretch, given the number of ways in which Venue and Twitter seem to offer similar and competing services. Unlike Facebook’s Venue service, Twitter streams the video from a live event and plans to offer dedicated spaces where users can interact with other users’ tweeted reactions.
The major difference between Twitter and Facebook’s take on second-screening live events seems to be one of control. On Twitter, everyone’s comments are included and given equal weight in an event stream. By contrast, Venue places full curation and control in the hands of an expert host.
That control switch seems to make Venue stand out from other non-Twitter competitors in the space, including Facebook’s own Live and Instagram Live platforms. Plus, YouTube Live and Amazon’s Twitch all allow live chat. Venue’s host controls are meant to be a differentiator to set the experience apart.
How appealing will Venue be for consumers seeking digital alternatives to events in the physical world? Well, with great power comes great responsibilities, so much of this will rise and fall on the hosts and the live events.
Facebook hasn’t yet announced what future events Venue will host beyond NASCAR, but refers to the racing league as its “first” sports partner. That implies that others will be coming down the line. How appealing they’ll be to consumers remains to be seen.