How many rubber bands does it take to pop a watermelon? More than 800,000 tuned in to Facebook to watch the answer to that question as Buzzfeed livestreamed two staffers placing rubber bands around a watermelon until it exploded on Friday, 8 April. The 45-minute broadcast has garnered more than 7.3 million views at the time of writing, and is now the most-watched livestream, both concurrently and through replays, in Facebook history.
The premise behind the video titled, "Watch us explode this watermelon one rubber band at a time" was simple enough. The Facebook Live event featured Buzzfeed staffers Chelsea Marshall and James Harness donning hazmat suits and placing rubber bands one by one around the watermelon, counting out each time, with the aim of making it explode.
"If it doesn't explode, this will be a worse cliffhanger then the 'Walking Dead' season finale," one user posted in the comments.
The tension of the watermelon and its viewership grew exponentially over the course of the stream. After a 45-minute build-up of guessing and waiting for the inevitable, the watermelon's top finally blew off amidst cheers inside BuzzFeed's New York cafeteria.
On Friday, #Watermelon was trending on Twitter as many people took to social media to question their life choices.
"The year is 2030," journalist Bobby Blanchard tweeted, "and my son asks 'Daddy where were you when @BuzzFeed exploded a watermelon with rubber bands as 700,000 people watched on?'"
Some media outlets, predictably, attempted to replicate the success, including Fortune digital editor Daniel Bentley, who streamed himself stapling an orange.
The event comes as Facebook continues to make Live Video a priority and encourage more original sharing. Recently, the company pushed live broadcasts to the top of its News Feed. It has also started paying a small number of media companies, including Buzzfeed, to create unique live streaming content and compete with other tech giants such as Twitter and Google looking to tap into the live streaming trend as well. It has also reached out to Hollywood agents to bring in and pay celebrities "to commit to regular broadcasts" as well.
"We built this big technology platform so we can go and support whatever the most personal and emotional and raw and visceral ways people want to communicate are as time goes on," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told BuzzFeed News.
Besides pointing to the BuzzFeed's innate flair for creating viral content, particularly videos, it also gives Facebook a shining example of how easily and quickly live streams can spread through its 1.6 billion users.
"Livestreams are stories, just like any other content generated by a news organization," Benjamin Mullin of the Poynter Institute wrote in a blog post. "At their best, they should have a beginning, middle and end — ideally one that elicits an emotional reaction from the viewer. And, if possible, they should include an element of uncertainty to sustain the audience's interest."
He also added that "newsroom managers might be wise to figure out how they can apply today's lessons to their own coverage."