How badly does  Facebook want you to watch and use its Live broadcasting feature? The Menlo Park company is paying almost 140 media companies and celebrities more than $50 million just to use Facebook Live.

The social network has put in place deals with a variety of top-tier news outlets and celebrities in an effort to get them use Live, Facebook's answer to the  Periscope live streaming service launched by Twitter last year. These media companies range from Buzzfeed and the New York Times to the Huffington Post and Mashable, according to the Wall Street Journal. The celebrity roster, meanwhile, holds the likes of Kevin Hart, Gordon Ramsay and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

"We wanted to invite a broad set of partners so we could get feedback from a variety of different organizations about what works and what doesn't," Justin Osofsky, Facebook's vice president of global operations and media partnerships, told the Journal in a statement.

Buzzfeed is the top earner with a deal for $3.05 million while the New York Times comes in second with a $3.03 million deal. But while media companies have in place the top deals with Facebook, the bulk of traffic is being driven by celebrities.

Nearly 63 percent of Live video traffic from mid April to mid June came from broadcasts by celebrities and public figures, according to data by Tubular Labs that was first reported by  The Information. Media companies, by comparison, drove just 14.5 percent of Live traffic.

This shows media companies still have a ways to go before users start tuning in for their live broadcasts at the same rate that they tune in and share media companies' pre-recorded videos -- the data shows that media companies accounted for 69.5 percent of all Facebook video traffic.

For Facebook, though, all of this is good news. In exchange for the millions it is dishing out, Facebook is securing exclusive content for its social network and heavily boosting one of its top new features. Facebook Live, meanwhile, is a direct shot at competitor Twitter, which is on its heels struggling to attract new users with a strategy that consists largely around being the user hub for all things live.

Earlier this week, Twitter spent $150 million to acquire Magic Pony, a machine learning startup whose technology promises to help improve the quality of live video. Meanwhile, Yahoo-owned Tumblr also jumped into the livestreaming wars this week, although its offering relies on third-party providers.  

Published on: Jun 22, 2016