- Facebook rolled out an app called "Venue" that lets people talk about live events while they watch TV, starting with stock-car racing organization NASCAR. The app lets fans interact with expert commentators including journalists, athletes or "fan-analysts" who host a mobile gathering spot, per an announcement.
- During NASCAR events, those personalities can host a venue for each race, providing commentary, posing questions to fans, conducting surveys and opening short chats at specific moments. Fox Sports NASCAR commentator Alan Cavanna, NASCAR driver Landon Casill and social media personality Nascarcasm from NASCAR.com are among the hosts of upcoming venues.
- Venue is available for iOS and Android devices in the U.S. Facebook's New Product Experimentation (NPE) team that creates pilot technologies developed the app, which is subject to change, per the announcement.
Facebook's introduction of Venue comes as many live events have been suspended because the coronavirus pandemic prevents large public gatherings. The cancelation of live sports has created a vacuum in TV programming that has marketers seeking other ways to reach audiences, including mobile channels, and which Facebook is trying to fill with an app that caters to sports fans engaging in second-screen experiences on their smartphones.
NASCAR is among the first sports organizations to resume live events that are televised from empty stadiums, setting a precedent for MLB, NBA and NHL to possibly resume play. With people unable to attend games in person, TV and social media are likely to become more central to the fan experience, giving Venue a chance to expand its user base.
As Facebook notes, it wants to improve the "second-screening" experience for fans who look at their mobile phones while watching games on TV. About 70% of U.S. adults regularly use another device while watching TV, with most of that usage happening on a smartphone, researcher eMarketer found. Mobile devices provide a parallel channel to reach TV audiences, both to supplement commercials and to compete with them for viewer attention.
Facebook's Venue most resembles Twitter as a platform for up-to-date commentary about breaking news, including live sports events. It's too early to tell whether Venue will undercut Twitter, whose website boasts of its popularity among sports fans who use their mobile devices while watching TV. The company said that people who use Twitter while watching sports on TV are 42% more engaged with ads than people who only watch TV, and are 52% more likely to remember ads. Using social media while watching TV is a sign of deeper engagement with the programming, possibly giving Venue a way to monetize its service by seeking mobile marketers as sponsors.