Facebook spent more than $50 million last year paying publishers and celebrities to create live video on the social network.
Now numerous publishers tell Recode that Facebook is de-emphasizing live video when it talks to them. And none of the publishers we’ve spoken with expect Facebook to renew the paid livestreaming deals it signed last spring to get live video off the ground.
Instead, Facebook is pushing publishers to create longer, premium video content as part of a larger effort led by Facebook exec Ricky Van Veen. The hope is to get more high-quality video onto the platform and into your News Feed — the kind of stuff, presumably, you might find on Netflix.
Facebook may pay publishers for that stuff, instead of paying them to make live video, a format Mark Zuckerberg was “obsessed” with last year. Late last year, Recode reported that Van Veen is having discussions with some creators to license TV-style shows.
Those deals might make sense for companies that already make longform video, like TV studios and movie houses, but it’s unclear if digital publishers that are part of the live video program will be paid to make the kind of stuff Van Veen is looking for. Vox Media, the company that owns Recode, is a current Facebook Live partner.
A Facebook rep declined to comment.
That change in priorities seems to signal a shift away from “professionally” produced live video, which was a huge point of emphasis for the company in 2016 and something pushed heavily by CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook is still spending millions of dollars on a massive advertising campaign around Facebook Live, but that campaign is targeting regular users, not publishers or celebrities.
Most of the paid deals Facebook signed last spring were one-year agreements, and while it’s certainly possible Facebook could still try and renew some of them, multiple publishers we spoke with said they wouldn’t be interested in signing a new deal even if Facebook offered one.
The issue is that the amount of money Facebook paid for these live videos — at most $3 million to big publishers like BuzzFeed, but often much smaller figures, according to the Wall Street Journal — was not significant enough to merit the time and resources it took to produce them.
Some publishers had teams of workers creating live video; the New York Times assigned seven employees to its Facebook Live efforts. Publishers we’ve talked with say they will continue to make live videos for Facebook and other platforms, like Twitter and YouTube, but they’ll scale back their efforts.
Sources say Facebook never intended for these paid deals to be a longterm solution to getting live content, but now it’s pulling that subsidy without a clear revenue alternative in place.
Some publishers have experimented with getting sponsors for their live videos, but those efforts are embryonic. Facebook has been testing a new mid-roll advertising option since August, but those ads are still unproven and most publishers have not yet tried them.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.