Why Brands Should Watch out for Watch, Facebook’s New Video Platform

4 min read

As the multi-platform television space continues to evolve, Facebook is throwing its hat in the video streaming ring with the launch of its newest platform: Watch. They are poised to quickly become a major video-viewing destination given their global audience size and offering. Watch will be available on mobile, desktop, laptop, and as a TV app, and will offer original content from more than 30 partners (including live sports, starting with an MLB game broadcasted every Friday night.)

In a nutshell, it’s a mix of models we’ve seen before but enhanced with the unique benefits that Facebook brings. Users can create a personalized Watchlist to keep up with their favourite shows, have content recommended to them based on their Facebook community and personal activity, and comments and connect with friends and other viewers while watching videos in real-time.

This move comes as no surprise. Social platforms have been diving into this space in different ways for some time now. For example, both Twitter and Snapchat have brokered deals with broadcasters – the former to live stream sports and the latter to create and adapt content to the Snapchat environment.

On their end, Facebook and Instagram are pushing video in reaction to growing user consumption patterns. This makes Watch the next natural next step as they commit to becoming a real competitor in this environment. We’re breaking down the intricacies of this new platform and the ripple effect it could have across the board for advertisers.


Potential for Next-Level Content Customization

When it comes to curating video content, one ace Facebook has up its sleeve is the massive amount of user data to draw from. While YouTube has 1.5 billion users globally, they do not require a log-in to watch. Compare that with Facebook’s 2 billion global users logging in at all times, from practically every country around the world, and it becomes clear just how well Facebook knows their audiences.  Since its initial launch, it has amassed a myriad of information that decodes exactly what people like, what makes them react, and how they interact with others. If applied correctly, this could translate to customizable content creation on a level we’ve never seen before.


Big Gains for Advertisers

A recent Hubspot report states that 4x as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, and 43% of people surveyed want to see even more video content being produced from marketers. Watch provides brands with this preferred platform, letting them reach consumers on their preferred terms.

So far we know that Watch will offer 6-second mid-roll ads for purchase, starting as a limited release but expected to expand to more video creators and shows over time. The beauty of these in-stream ads is that they’re unskippable, meaning that if users are engaged enough to watch content until the end, these ads have the potential for big impact on performance. They also present a golden opportunity to pair in-stream ads with short video content – helpful given that content must meet strict eligibility standards in order to show ads.

Facebook also confirmed that over time, video creators will be able to monetize their shows through Ad Breaks (which are currently in beta testing) and through branded content. This presents a plethora of opportunities for brands, who are growing increasingly interested in upping their branded content output as they look for different ways to connect with users in a more native fashion.

The current reality we face is this: People are interacting less and less with traditional ads on Facebook. Advertisers are looking for new ways to engage with customers on social media, and this could be their ticket. True, it will take some adaptation to seamlessly (and authentically) integrate within this new environment, but ultimately worth the work if it means earning the interaction they crave.


Challenging Broadcasters

Facebook also announced they are creating original, broadcast quality, long-form content in a bid to add themselves to the list of TV apps (i.e. Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Crackle) and create that “lean back” TV experience. With the lines between cable and Internet TV blurring, this will put Facebook in direct competition with traditional broadcasters for advertising dollars. This could also mean a shift in habits for heavy content consumption users, both traditional linear as well as OTT who, for them, Facebook Watch is an additive platform to their multiple viewing sources.

That said, it all depends on the quality and length of the content they publish. As the Smart TV space becomes busier, with more apps than ever for viewers to choose from, TV app fatigue could be on the horizon. On mobile, for example, users tend to use the same 3-4 apps on a daily basis; a pattern we could very well start seeing for TV apps as well. If Facebook wants to capture the coveted couch-viewing audience, they need to position themselves as indispensable both as a content creator and as a user engager.

One existing feature that could become their hook is the ability to comment and connect with other viewers while watching videos in real-time. Think what Twitter is to prime-time TV, but now that level of engagement can be reached through a second screen all within one single app. We’ve already seen how well this works with Facebook Live streams – Watch is ready to take that to the next level.


Key Takeaways

One thing is certain: Watch has a ton of potential to become a powerful player in the multiplatform television space. Facebook’s 2 billion+ worldwide following currently consume over 100 million hours of video content daily on the platform, it’s clear that audiences crave video content. Add to the fact that Facebook has committed to funding original content to feed this behemoth, and they’ve got an abundance of user data to tailor the experience for each viewer. Bottom line: they have the capacity to play well within the video space if they can get the right content deals.

Either way, this is not happening tomorrow. Watch is beginning with a soft rollout in the U.S., and representatives from Facebook say there is currently no news regarding a potential Canadian rollout. Even so, it’s an important development for Canadian brands to have on their radar, because when this service rolls across the border, brands will be off to the races to get in on a piece of this new platform.