Facebook has overtaken the small screen in people’s pockets. Now it’s ready to take on the big screen in their living rooms.
Facebook has started testing the ability for people to stream videos — including live ones — to their TVs that are connected to an Apple TV or Google Chromecast, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed on Monday. “We’re currently testing updates to the Facebook app that provide better support for streaming videos from the app to your TV via AirPlay and Chromecast,” the spokesperson said.
Facebook feed, now with AirPlay, is the best TV guide of all time. pic.twitter.com/3HFLQsMhvn
— Jason Stein (@jasonwstein) August 8, 2016
Facebook had originally added AirPlay support to its iPad app in 2011, so it’s unclear why it took the company so long to bring it to its iPhone app. The spokesperson wasn’t immediately able to answer that question. Android Police had reported in May 2016 that Facebook appeared to be testing Chromecast support.
Right now Facebook’s AirPlay and Chromecast support appears to be pretty standard. While a video plays on the TV, you can minimize the in-app video player to scroll through your news feed to find something else to watch or pass the time during a boring spot in a video (like maybe a mid-roll ad airing during a Live stream).
You can only set one video at a time to stream to an Apple TV; that’s how YouTube’s iPhone app works too. When it comes to Chromecast, YouTube’s app lets people add multiple videos to a queue that will play sequentially, binge-style. I haven’t been able to get Facebook’s iPhone or Android apps to connect to Chromecast, so I don’t know yet if Facebook also enables these queues.
Connected-TV support seems to be more worthwhile when it comes to Facebook Live streams. With the live video playing on the big screen, the comments feed takes over the small screen including a box for someone to write their own comments, making for a legitimate second screen experience.
While Facebook’s AirPlay and Chromecast support doesn’t appear to offer anything that other video services like Google’s YouTube, Netflix and Hulu don’t already provide, it does have one big thing going for it: the news feed algorithm. Until now Facebook has used its algorithm to entice more people to watch videos in Facebook’s apps and on its site. But if it can attract more programming that people would want to watch on their TVs — like longer, higher quality videos and live broadcasts — and do a better job than the others of prompting people to watch it, well, that’s usually how Facebook wins and how it could try to win the living room, or at least the living rooms that rely on Apple TVs and Chromecasts to stream video.
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Author: Tim Peterson