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TV brands offer social viewing via Facebook Timeline apps

Back in November, a small group of news sites became the first to launch “Timeline apps” on Facebook. These apps allow users to share what they read with their friends, so-called “frictionless sharing.” Today, Facebook announced that several TV brands are launching Timeline apps that also share what people are watching with their friends: msnbc.com, TODAY.com, The Daily Show, MTV News, GetGlue and the CBS stations in New York and Los Angeles are among the new partners.


The msnbc.com video player with Facebook sharing activated

While many people routinely share what they’re watching on TV, Facebook now provides a way to do the same with online video — automatically, if you so choose. For example, you can choose to share what you watch on msnbc.com with your friends — and see what they’re watching, too. Unlike some earlier Timeline apps, msnbc.com goes out of its way to ensure you’ve opted in to sharing. Once you’ve agreed to connect, the video player prominently explains as you watch a clip, “You’re sharing this video on Facebook,” allowing you to “undo” or “stop all sharing.”

“As you begin to experience what your friends are consuming, watch for your favorite writers’ names too – they’ll be signed up and if you’re following them, you’ll see what they’re reading and watching in your feed too,” explains msnbc.com Editor in Chief Jennifer Sizemore. “And for those of you who prefer to read, watch and share in your own way – of course, please keep doing so! Nothing will change for you, except that we’re now showing you a few “most-shared” headlines along with all the editor-chosen headlines on our home page.”


Facebook’s Andy Mitchell unveiling the media Timeline apps. Photo by Facebook.

If you’ve had any doubt that Facebook will play a big role in social TV, I think it’s safe prediction that these aren’t the last TV brands to launch Timeline apps. And if you think this is a competitive threat to GetGlue, well, GetGlue also launched a Facebook Timeline app today — so it’s all incremental distribution.

Facebook points out that early experiments with Timeline apps have driven big traffic to media partners. As Facebook shares what you read or watch, it includes a link to the original content. “As media organizations build new timeline apps, initial results show significant increases in traffic and engagement, while allowing media sites to reach new – often younger – demographics,” explains Justin Osofsky, director of media partnerships. Here’s some data Facebook has provided:

  • Yahoo!: Over the past 3 months, more than 25 million people have opted in to Social Bar, and 2 million people are using it every day. Younger users, aged 18 – 34, are the most active.
  • The Guardian UK: Since launching at f8, the app has been installed over 5 million times. Over half of the app’s users are 24 and under, bringing the Guardian to a traditionally hard to reach audience.
  • Digg: Since Digg Social Reader launched, their page views are up 35%. They’ve seen a 2X increase in the number of monthly active users of their app, a 4X increase in weekly active users, and a 3X increase in daily active users.

(Full disclosure: I work for BreakingNews, which is part of the msnbc digital network. And my friends pictured above are all msnbc or NBC employees.)

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