Facebook is today launching a partner program for its Express Wi-Fi initiative, which helps bring higher-speed connections to developing markets, including India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The program itself involves having local business owners install Wi-Fi hotspots, where internet service is provided by local ISPs, mobile network operators, and others that Facebook has partnered with. Now, Facebook is launching a new partner program that will allow access point manufacturers to build devices compatible with Express Wi-Fi.
Facebook first began testing Express Wi-Fi three years ago, and has since expanded it to the five above countries and 10 partners. The idea behind the project is to create an entrepreneurial grassroots base for the its Wi-Fi service – that is, the operators and ISPs would be working with local entrepreneurs who want to resell internet access in their own communities. The partners set the prices, but Facebook provides the software.
The company has tried to address the needs of developing markets before, via its zero-rating program Free Basics. But this program was criticized over net neutrality concerns, as it only provided access to specific websites – like Facebook, of course – to the developing markets. India eventually banned that program in 2016, as a result.
Express Wi-Fi, on the other hand, offers full, unrestricted access to the web, not a selection of pre-approved sites and services. It’s one of Facebook’s many connectivity initiatives today, along with others like OpenCellular, rural access programs, drones, and other infrastructure projects.
The new partner program for Express Wi-Fi, announced today, was built to address specific issues Facebook and its partners faced in the field, the company now explains. It says it has been working with the manufacturers to build new access points that better detect registration pages and more accurately count the amount of Wi-Fi data consumed.
This will allow the Wi-Fi service providers to sell prepaid access as well as different traffic classes – like offering some services or content for free, while charging for others. Presumably, this would be another avenue of making Facebook free to developing markets down the road.
Facebook says having hardware manufacturers on board will help its operator partners more easily set up and manage their Express Wi-Fi hotspots.
Weak and expensive connectivity is a big barrier to Facebook adoption in developing markets, especially as user growth in developed regions is stalling – or, even decreasing at times. In July, Facebook reported no user growth in the U.S. and Canada, and a loss of European users it attribute to GDPR requirements. Developing regions, however, are still coming online and could bring Facebook a whole host of new users, if people can get connected.
Those include partnerships with the big players in media — starting with NBCUniversal, which will be sharing live video and clips from properties including NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo.
Twitter also announced some of the shows it will be airing as part of the ESPN deal announced earlier today: SportsCenter Live (a Twitter version of the network’s flagship) and Fantasy Focus Live (a live stream of the fantasy sports podcast).
Plus, the company said it’s expanding its existing partnership with Viacom with shows like Comedy Central’s Creator’s Room, BET Breaks and MTV News.
During the NewFronts event, Twitter’s head of video Kayvon Beykpour said daily video views on the platform have nearly doubled in the past year. And Kay Madati (pictured above), the company’s head of content partnerships, described the company as “the ultimate mobile platform where video and conversation share the same screen.”
As Twitter continues to invest in video content, it’s been emphasizing its advantage in live video, a theme that continued in this year’s announcement.
“Twitter is the only place where conversation is tied to video and the biggest live moments, giving brands the unique ability to connect with leaned in consumers who are shaping culture,” said Twitter Global VP of Revenue and Content Partnerships Matthew Derella in a statement. “That’s our superpower.”
During the event, Derella also (implicitly) contrasted Twitter with other digital platforms that have struggled with questions about transparency and whether ads are running in an appropriate environment. Tonight, he said marketers could say goodbye to unsafe brand environments and a lack of transparency: “And we say hello to you being in control of where your video aligns … we say hello to a higher measure of transparency, we say hello to new premium inventory and a break from the same old choices.”
On top of all the new content, Twitter is also announcing new ad programs. There are Creator Originals, a set of scripted series from influencers who will be paired up with sponsored brands. (The program is powered by Niche, the influencer marketing startup that Twitter acquired a few years ago.) And there’s a new Live Brand Studio — as the name suggests, it’s a team that works with marketers to create live video.
Here are some other highlights from the content announcements:
- CELEBrate, a series where people get heartwarming messages from their idols from Ellen Digital Studios.
- Delish Food Day and IRL from Hearst Magazines Digital Media.
- Power Star Live, which is “inspired by the cultural phenomenon of Black Twitter” and live streamed from the Atlanta University Center, from Will Packer Media.
- BuzzFeed News is renewing AM to DM until the end of 2018.
- Vice News is launching a new series called The New Space Race.
- Pattern, a new brand focused on weather- and science-related news.
- #HereWeAre programming from the Huffington Post (which, like TechCrunch, is owned by Verizon/Oath), History, Vox and BuzzFeed News that highlights women around the world.
- The Call of Duty World League will air highlights and Championship Sunday for the rest of the season.
CEO Jack Dorsey closed the event by thanking advertisers: “We want to continue to serve. We want to contineu to serve the public conversation, and we want to continue to serve you.”
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