Facebook’s Watch video-streaming platform has been rolled out worldwide, nearly a year after its initial launch in the US.
Watch gives users of the social network a hub to discover content (including live streams), create watch feeds and archive saved videos from the news feed. Facebook also promises to bring ‘interactive’ experiences, including ‘Watch Parties’, premieres and interactive quiz-style shows, and unique-to-platform content.
Making the service available to its global audience will have put the video service on a similar par to YouTube overnight, meaning both new and existing partners will now have increased access to billions of users.
It also opens up a potentially vast new source of ad dollars for the social site which has been battling slowing revenue growth this year and limited supplies of available inventory for some time.
Watch creators will now be able to ‘auto-add’ relevant pre-roll and mid-roll ads to content providing they have hit certain metrics; their videos must be over three-minutes long; have accrued more than 30K one-minute views in the past 12 months; have 10K followers; and meet Facebook’s eligibility standards.
At present, only videos shown to audiences in the UK, US, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand will have the feature. If the creator ticks all the boxes and ads are served, the social network will take 45% of all ad revenue – which while seemingly hefty, amounts to more or less what YouTube charges its publishers as standard – leaving the creator with the remaining 55% share.
A slow start
Facebook says its US launch of Watch attracted 50 million viewers per month, while total time spent within the tab has increased by 14 times since the start of the year. While this might sound like a substantial user base, though, it represents less than a quarter of the site’s North American audience, and that might be coming down to an awareness issue.
In a survey of more than 1,500 adult Facebook users by Diffusion Group, 50% said they had never heard of Watch, while 24% said they were aware of the service but never used it. Just 14% said they used Watch at least once a week.
It has also reportedly struggled with poor retention rates, prompting industry comments from industry experts that “lots of people sample, few return”.
Facebook is attempting to battle these figures with exclusive content, with plans to spend approximately $1bn by the end of the year on unique programming with “global appeal”, partnering with big production companies such as Endemol and independents.
It’s also providing creators with a ‘loyalty insights’ tool, which feature metrics on audience retention, allowing publishers to monitor the content leading to longer views and return visits.
In efforts to reassure advertisers in its media announcement, Facebook added that more than 70% of mid-roll video ads across its platform are viewed to completion.
It’s worth noting, though, that while it will likely be differentiating Watch in terms of its core content, in launch the platform it puts itself in competition with its own IGTV on Instagram. As noted by MediaCom’s CEO, Josh Krichefski, speaking to Mobile Marketing, however, social platforms can hardly opt to steer clear of video.
“Video is to be an integral part of any brand and social media platforms' arsenal, and Facebook Watch's launch is further evidence of just how far companies are pushing live and on-demand video – particularly longer-form content," said Krichefski.
"Alongside Snapchat and Instagram's recent foray into video with IGTV, Facebook's Watch will now compete for the audience's attention and look to grab a slice of this increasingly iced cake.”
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