Given that livestreaming has intensified in recent weeks, as homebound populations seek ways to connect through the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook is shipping a number of improvements to its flagship Live product.

Facebook Live usage has increased 50% over the past month, the company says, which is roughly when social distancing measures began to take hold. And people are using the platform in myriad ways, the company says — from virtual concerts to live zoo safaris to cooking demos and even Mass with the Pope. All told, Facebook has hosted 8.5 billion Live broadcasts to date, since the product rolled out in 2015.

To this end, Facebook is now seeking to make it easier for more people to watch Live streams worldwide — by enabling viewership without a Facebook account, as well as new viewing options for users with limited access to data. In the latter instance, for instance, low-bandwidth viewers can tune into broadcasts by toggling off video for an audio-only stream. Additionally, Facebook is integrating the ability for creators to generate toll-free numbers — so that viewers can tune in via phone calls — and also adding automatic closed captioning to all Live videos.

Facebook has also unveiled new resources for creators to make livestreaming more lucrative. It is expanding access to Stars (animated, virtual gifts that creators can use to monetize a stream) to more publishers, and testing the product — which is popular among Facebook’s gaming community — with musicians and cultural institutions for the first time. Stars, which were previously called Sparks, launched for gamers in 2018, and rolled out to a broader community of gaming creators in November. (Viewers can buy 95 Stars for $1.99, and for every Star a creator receives, Facebook will pay them $0.01).

Finally, Facebook is rolling out a number of how-to tools in order to make streaming seamless for newbies. This includes: a new Live Producer surface to manage streams from a connected camera; Live Kits, or accessory starter kits to help the uninitiated — including faith-based and education organizations — navigate the live landscape; numerous How-To Guides; and a Global Coronavirus Media Resource — a landing page with timely and relevant info about the pandemic for all media partners.

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