Rumors of Facebook’s death have been greatly exaggerated (one notable prediction: in early 2014, Princeton University argued Facebook would “die out” by 2017). If Facebook has one challenge that media and advertising folks take seriously though, it’s the sentiment that “the kids are on Snapchat”. And research suggests that within the 12-17 year old segment, this might be true.
That’s part of what makes the launch of Facebook Watch so interesting. The move builds on the user-generated content success of Facebook Live, and launches the tech giant into the broadcasting space.
A New Engagement Dynamic
By diversifying its channels to include the recently launched Watch tab, Facebook is hoping to take a share of the passive media consumption time that TV currently dominates. And while traditional players are entrenched when it comes to content, the richness of Facebook’s audience data makes the move an interesting one for both content creators and advertisers.
Initial (but self-reported) data suggests they’re off to a good start, seeing an average of 2-3 times longer watch times for their serialized content, like Mashable’s “Sharp Science” or “Bad Days”, than for their one-off videos.
And it’s worth noting where Facebook is planning on investing their content programming dollars, with the platform planning on paying up to $3 million per episode of family-friendly content with the target age range of 13-34, avoiding political dramas and shows that breach Facebook’s existing community guidelines.
“It’s a grown-up problem for Facebook which needs young users to develop the habit of checking Facebook so it can show them ads well into adulthood,” says USA TODAY. As Watch rolls out, Facebook can engage its young users with its new video content, potentially retaining them as they age along with the platform.
Bringing in Broadcast Talent
Taking on traditional broadcasters is a huge challenge, even for Facebook, which is why they’ve hired MTV’s executive vice president Mina Lefevre as Head of Development and CollegeHumor’s co-founder Ricky Van Veen as Head of Global Creative Strategy.
Facebook plans to provide users with personalized recommendations of recorded and live shows, and if it becomes successful enough, they’ll eventually develop their own app similar to Facebook Messenger, making it easier for users to engage on mobile.
Watch is more of a direct competitor to YouTube, which already funds various original series via YouTube Red, a paid monthly subscription service with a few perks tacked onto it. Facebook, however, is unique in that it started off as a social media platform that grew into the multimedia space.
On the social media spectrum, Watch will compete with Twitter and Snapchat, both of which are invested in integrating video content into their platforms. Snap in particular is making a similar move into the space, introducing Snapchat Shows, which target the same pre-teen segment as Facebook. However, Snapchat is now focusing on signing deals with TV studios in order to appeal to that segment.
Meanwhile Netflix, apparently, isn’t threatened by Facebook’s advancement into video content development. Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, currently serves on the board for Facebook and is aware that Watch will not be competing directly with Netflix. It’s “not a big conflict yet… They are not doing ‘House of Cards.’ We are not bidding on the same shows. So not a big deal there.” Hastings said. In addition, Netflix and Facebook are not targeting the same age segments and competing to purchase different series.
Watch will primarily compete with cable providers in order to take away share from ad revenue, but for Facebook to be successful, they first have to drive enough viewers to Watch to prove its worth.
The Watch Advantage
Facebook’s Video Ads provide more impressions and deliver more time watched to the most amount of people than any other online video platform. With Watch, publishers and content creators will have the opportunity to:
Watch is steadily pacing its availability in the U.S. but many publishers are already seeking to involve advertisers on sponsored shows. Before advertisers make the decision to invest, Facebook Watch has to prove that its viewership data is worth the investment. In addition, advertisers could possibly opt have their own branded shows since their ads will be published alongside professionally developed content.
With a total user base of 2 billion, Facebook has the potential to drive enough views that could eventually lead to larger revenue-share payouts and better content creation for both the social media platform and its publishers in the future.
Author: Itzel Soto, Intern at Engage