Rory’s Rumblings: What The Facebook/WSL Partnership Really Looks Like
This ain’t Zuckerberg’s first rodeo!
Prior to today’s announcement, that the World Surf League has entered into a two year “Groundbreaking Exclusive Distribution Partnership” with Facebook Watch, the social media platform’s streaming service, I was unaware said streaming service existed.
I was under the impression the only streaming videos on offer were aggregations of teenage boys eating poison and/or damaging their penises for attention, white people’s racist conspiracy theories, live streams of my friends complaining about the traffic on Kauai, spearfishing stuff…
I watch a lot of the first and last.
According to Variety, the Facebook Watch launched late last summer, in an attempt to “drive up video-viewing consumption by users and provide a home for longer-form, episodic content separate from Facebook’s News Feed.”
Basically Youtube, but with higher production values.
Intrigued, I decided to check it out.
The first show to catch my eye was Trashin’, a skateboard show hosted by Richie Jackson, where skaters build obstacles out of garbage. It’s a cut-rate version of Built to Shred.
Not terrible, but not something I’d watch again.
I journeyed on. Trick Shot Superstar, I think, is meant to appeal to the terrible-social-skills-but-able-to-focus-on-repetitive-tasks-for-hours set. Despite being a member of the aforementioned group of awkward humans, I found myself bored in minutes.
I Want My Phone Back involves contestants “[finding] out just how long they can go without their mobile devices, as host Alana Johnston and a cast of improvisers attempt to wreak complete havoc on their social media,” and features struggling actors playing ‘real,’ firmly reaffirming my suspicion that blowing my call-back for a late-90s movie about surfers in Orange County was the best thing to ever happen to me.
Actor’s lead miserable fucking existences.
Dad Hair School went unwatched, lest it land me on a list. There is absolutely no good reason for me to watch an adult do a little girl’s hair.
Kids React to Payphones is stupid. Because children are stupid and I’m not amused by them at all. Unless they’re falling down, in which case I’m a fan.
From the World Surf League’s perspective, the move makes perfect sense. Attaching to Facebook will, at least ostensibly, lead to a greater understanding of their target market and, ideally, help reach fresh eyes on a platform which claims to be growing at a staggering rate.
Jeffries, a global investment banking firm, predicts that revenue from Watch could rise to $12 billion by 2020.
While Facebook Watch and YouTube both claim the same percentage of advertising revenue from partners (45%), it’s fair to speculate that the higher quality content will lead to a higher CPM. And we all want the WSL to earn money from advertisers, if only to stave off the dreaded switch to Pay-Per-View.
The WSL also plans to begin production on Surf Sundays, a weekly recap show which will, hopefully, contain in-depth commentary and analysis on performances in both the ‘CT and ‘QS. I reached out to the WSL’s Dave Prodan for information on who’d be hosting (I want Kaipo and Wassel). His response, “No further details yet, but part of an array of static content the WSL intends to produce,” didn’t clear anything up for me. Mainly because I don’t understand what the second part of that sentence means.
But Dave had helpful information to share. The change won’t happen overnight. “We’re not migrating off platform until the viewing experience is as good, if not better, than it currently is.”
Furthermore, the Heat Analyzer, by far my favorite part of the WSL’s broadcast package, will remain intact on the WSL’s site and app.
An issue I neglected to raise with Mr. Prodan, but one that has hopefully been well-considered, is Watch’s persistent promotion of audience commentary.
While audience engagement is the goal of any media enterprise, it can’t be ignored that the form it takes is often beyond vicious and crude. If women’s heats devolve into sexist screeds, or Brazilian surfers are deluged with running racist stream of consciousnesses, it might turn off those attracted to the sport in search of the mythical ocean-bodhi mindset long sold to those residing in the Flyover States.
The fact that it requires a working Facebook account to view could exacerbate the problem, as thousands of burner accounts are created in order to login.
In the end, the new partnership seems to be, at worst, a lateral move.
It’s not likely to impact current fans, has the potential to lure in some new ones, and just might be what pro surfing needs to grab the income they think exists… out there… somewhere.
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