Commentary

'Live From E!' Is Live On Facebook.But Why?

In a suburb outside of Chicago, McDonald’s operates Hamburger University, where would-be franchise owners go for training, and where there’s also a test kitchen that works on the next big inventions. It is the place where, almost literally, stuff is thrown against the wall to see what sticks.

Something like that is happening on Facebook with  “Live From E!”  The social site is going big into live video and this is one of the first examples. A version of “Live” already exists on its Website and app, but this new version is shot using Apple IPhone 6.  "Live" is, to pun again, very pro-social media.

According to Variety, the (roughly) 20-minute show “has been completely redeveloped for Facebook, optimized for the single-camera Facebook Live viewing platform with the E! hosts speaking directly to viewers. The set also is getting a facelift, with a new desk to better fit the screen size and a 60-inch monitor to let the digital audience to see and hear in-show content, such as B-roll, stills, commentary, questions and graphics in the same shot as the hosts’ discussion.”

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It would sound like a lot of thinking went into this new thing. It would sound like that. But it’s not true. “Live From E!” is a package of stuff that doesn’t work. 

That camera never moves. It is squarely aimed at the anchors--Melanie Bromley, Ken Baker and Jason Kennedy--with no close-ups of their cross talk.

The green screen in front of their podium desk flashes Tweets-in-the-news and paparazzi photos of stars and starlets, and today, the trailer for a new season of “Veep” on HBO. But all of that material displays squinty-small.

I watched on a Chromebook. I can’t imagine how much miniscule those images would look like on a smartphone.

Well, actually, I can imagine. What I can’t imagine is how this gossip network didn’t anticipate or didn’t care to rethink the way they presented the show. McDonald’s never turned out a product as half-done as this. Nor did the Audio/Visual Department at most high schools, I’d guess.

In the long run, when live digital programming is no longer new or novel, might it not turn out that it's also not necessary or suitable? This example from E! seems to make a powerful case. Or a cautionary example.

The exact business charm of entertainment/gossip reporting, especially, in a social media age, is that its rolling stock rarely reaches the level of anything that is truly newsworthy which makes it perfect for one sentence or 140-character treatment. It can't be old, but it needn't be live-live.

You don’t need a show at all, and certainly not a live one that will arrive on Facebook every day at 12:30 (9:30 Pacific). I subscribed today but just because I want to make sure I don’t miss the next bad thing.

Today, a big item on the new “Live From E!” was Justin Bieber’s Instagram post of an old photo of him embracing former flame Selena Gomez with the cryptic one word caption: “Feel.” Really, not that cryptic, but the hosts mostly played along. Also, big news on Harry Styles and Kendall Jenner. New purloined photos have us asking. Are they or aren’t they? Were they or weren’t they? 

In the least visually appealing way possible, you’ll find out with “Live From E!”

But cruising other non-live social media postings probably would be more entertaining. And the pictures would be bigger.

pj@mediapost.com

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