On April 20th President Obama will host a town hall meeting at Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. This will be an all web event, questions for the President will be solicited on Facebook and the White House website and the event itself will streamed live on Facebook and the White House site – more details here.
This is a big event and it is not on CNN, or Fox News – it is on the web, this is over-the-top (OTT) TV that isn’t routed via a cable provider or set top box. The President doesn’t care for social media or web TV per se, he simply reaches for the channels that will give him the most reach, and his choice on this occasion shows that Facebook and the web are right up there. I’m guessing there are two reasons for that – firstly the volume of users and secondly the amplification of publicity that comes with Facebook. Every person who leaves a question for the President, ‘Likes’ or comments on anything to do with the event, or watches it will have that broadcast in their friends news feeds. There is nothing traditional TV can do to compete with that.
The other notable thing about this event is that it is a mass audience live broadcast. The technical challenges of streaming live video to large numbers of concurrent users are often held up as a raison d’etre for traditional broadcasters going forward. The argument is that live categories including sport, and reality TV are the most popular and that TV can’t move to the internet because there isn’t the capacity. That argument is looking weaker.