Facebook Gives Viewers 3 New Ways to Engage With Their Favorite TV Shows

Challenges Twitter for second-screen supremacy

Facebook is trying to steal some of Twitter's thunder, aiming to be the first choice among second-screen viewers, people who watch TV and engage on social media at the same time.

So, this morning Facebook—with its 213 million monthly active users in the U.S.—announced new tools aimed at helping TV producers better engage audiences during live broadcasts.

"Whether it's a live talent contest or dating show, a television news special or the weekend's big game, TV viewers are connecting on Facebook during their favorite broadcast programs," said Bob Morgan, partner engineering director for Facebook, in a blog post. Facebook's research found that of those viewers who visit a social network while watching TV, 85 percent visit Facebook. "Our own researchers discovered that Facebook usage peaks in prime time in every country," Morgan said.

Here are three ways Facebook is hoping TV viewers will engage:

1. Hashtag voting and polling

This feature should get broadcasters the most excited. Instead of being directed toward separate apps within a show's Facebook page, users will be able to vote directly within a top-level post or comment.

Telescope, which has worked with Facebook for voting for NBA, WNBA and MLS All-Star Games and Fox's Teen Choice Awards, is the first company to adopt this API.

Facebook is also making it easier for media partners to poll audiences during live broadcasts. For example, a post can feature a photo and up to 10 choices. The responses can then be integrated into the live telecast.

2. Photo and video submissions

Facebook is giving viewers or aspiring contestants on competition series the ability to submit photos and videos directly to show pages. Those can be anything from video questions (Fox News used this to solicit questions for August's GOP debate) to funny submissions for late-night talk shows or audition videos.

Additionally, producers can build galleries that can be embedded in Facebook Page tabs or show sites and apps. HBO used this to help select the winner for its current season of Project Greenlight.

Telescope is providing the functionality for both features.

3. Custom icons

Taking a page from Twitter's playbook, Facebook will create custom icons—much like Twitter's custom emojis—for certain events such as the Oscars, the Emmys, The Bachelorette and sporting events like the Rugby World Cup.