When Facebook decided to open the doors to investors back in2012, there were many who felt that, despite its popularity, Facebook lacked a genuine, knock ‘em dead revenue stream. Ad traffic alone simply wouldn’t be sufficient to monetise such a vast business empire. Impressions, clicks and likes were all well and good, but in the final reckoning a business does not survive on exposure alone.
Sure, 1 billion people might be aware that you make the best gourmet burger in town, or that your latest product delivers twice the power at half the cost, but it requires quite a leap of faith to expect a consumer to see your ad, drop everything, and race to the shopping mall, just to get a whiff of that new car smell.
So those clever folk at Facebook thought about this, and concluded, if Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, well, let’s bring the mountain to Mohammed.
UK based start-up Screenburn, which launched around the same time as the Facebook IPO, is a classic example of this marketing strategy. Recent recruit Steve Macallister, who joins Screenburn from television distributor Zodiak Rights, explains “There’s no question that much of the future of long form video content lies with digital streaming”.
So you are a rock group with a global fan base of 100 million; now and then a fan will buy your merchandise, and once a decade they’ll come to one of your concerts. But if you’re playing in Buenos Aires, and they are in Honolulu, well then, you are out of sight, and out of mind.
That’s where Screenburn comes in; founder Tom Raffe explains, “Content owners may already have thousands or even millions of fans on Facebook. The app works very well to monetise this existing audience.”
The app appears on the client’s Facebook page, and provides Video On Demand (VOD) events, such as concerts, sporting events and films.
When a purchase is made, it is automatically broadcast in the buyer’s news feed, and hey presto, the event has gone viral, potentially attracting new legions of fans who would never otherwise have known about the event.
Like all the best business ideas, Screenburn represents a bold and simple step forward. The end user does not have to change the way they consume media, but they are given a new, tempting option, which they can access from the comfort of their homes. A wave of the credit card, dig out the microwave popcorn, and you’re ready to go.
Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum, and the rush of companies fighting to occupy this new space is impressive. Milyoni, the “social video” company, is working with the likes of Paramount and Lionsgate, and has already streamed a Smashing Pumpkins concert; Gumroad has worked with rock legend Bon Jovi, and major player Amazon Prime has been quick to launch its own VOD service, and is in talks with Virgin Media regarding adapting the service for TiVo.
Video on demand is by no means a new technology, with subscription based services such as Netflix attracting a consumer spend estimated at £200m in 2013 alone in the UK, but it’s the tie-up with social media that has brought the backing of angel investors.
Screenburns software is provided by volunteers so outgoings are low, and with 200 films made and launched already, featuring music legends such as Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, and the Libertines, the service, and the concept, means business.
To return to the beginning, the stumbling block may very well be the same as that which plagued the Facebook listing. How tangible are the results? Can Facebook’s organic search algorithm deliver the required exposure, or will events get lost amongst the billions of likes already clogging up users newsfeeds?
The answer? Increase your Facebook ad-spend. Will it work? Just ask Mark Zuckerberg!