Facebook Live: A Social Media Game Changer at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio


As athletes competed against each other for medals at the 2016 Olympics, social media platforms vied for a spot on the podium.

With its live-streaming features and now Instagram on board, Facebook seemed poised to take home gold against the likes of Twitter and Snapchat — hardly even a qualifier four years ago during the last summer games.

That’s not to sell short the snap app’s presence in Rio.

USA Today dubbed the U.S. men’s basketball team, “the greatest Snapchat team of all time” — paying homage to the value Snapchat adds to sharing moments that don’t live forever. Earlier this year, Snapchat secured a deal with NBC to feature the network’s Olympics content as stories on the mobile platform.

Facebook, however, has long had similar arrangements and expanded its coverage this year — announcing partnerships with more than 20 broadcasters and International Olympics Committee.

Perhaps the most notable among the alliances are those with the Olympic athletes themselves. According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook agreed to pay Michael Phelps $224,000 to create videos for Facebook Live.

While a Facebook video from Phelps may attract 3.9-million viewers (and counting), television ratings have taken a dive.

NBC’s Rio ratings were down 15.5 percent compared with its coverage of the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. “Of particular concern is a roughly 30 percent drop among viewers 18-34,” reported The Wall Street Journal.

It seems that demographic is much more interested in candid moments with Olympic athletes outside of the pool or off the mat — something traditional broadcast news cannot offer with formal sit-down or more polished interviews.

Once an event dominated by television, the Olympics presented a nice setting for social media channels to wage this battle over live sports content. It’s possible that Rio may have left behind a lasting digital legacy that may change how news organizations present future events, and how consumers decide to watch.

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Wes Benter is a senior online community services specialist at ProfNet, a service that connects journalists with expert sources. He previously worked as a creative producer for PR Newswire’s MultiVu. Prior to that, Wes worked on-air as a reporter and weather anchor for network affiliates in the Midwest. Learn more by following him on Twitter @WBenter.

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