Back in August, Facebook opened its video streaming platform, Watch, to all users in the US. The new feature is said to be Facebook’s response to Netflix and YouTube, and will stream both long and short-form content. The company tapped into YouTube creators, traditional television channels, and publications, committing to pay them up to $50,000 per episode of short-form content. Looking to the future, Facebook has committed to a $1 billion investment for long form content in 2018. While the future of Watch is uncertain, its social DNA presents an enticing partnership opportunity for brands looking to expand their social reach through storytelling.
Facebook realized that long-form content generates twice the engagement on mobile than short-form content. This is why Facebook has tweaked their algorithm to prioritize long-form video content on the News Feed rather than short-form. Taking this into account, Facebook is creating a social environment conducive to video advertising and therefore targeting those ad dollars traditionally spent on TV.
Similar to traditional TV, there will be ad breaks between programming. Brands who partner with Facebook to create content have the option to enter into a revenue share agreement where they receive 55 percent of advertising revenues, and in return Facebook receives the right of first refusal.
For those publishers who prefer to stay away from ads, Watch can also allow brands to gain revenue through product placement, however, they must tag the brands featured in the content.
To launch in the US, Facebook partnered with over 30 influential publishers ranging from YouTube creators and online publishers like Buzzfeed and Refinery 29, to traditional TV publishers like A&E and Univision, to everyday inviduals. But for Facebook, partnering does not mean content needs to be exclusive. Publishers who debut content on Facebook are free to share that content on YouTube or their own channels after premiering it on Facebook. This flexibility is meant to attract those influential and professional publishers whose main platform isn’t Facebook.
In order to jumpstart this initiative, Facebook has agreed to initially fund some of the content currently available. However, their ultimate goal is for anyone to be able to contribute content making Watch Facebook’s boldest attempt yet to compete with YouTube.
In terms of content style, Facebook is going for quantity over quality. As Variety reported, “Facebook wants thousands of shows, and it’s OK with anything as long as it can connect with a highly engaged fan-base.” This is in line with Facebook’s priority to increase visibility for videos.
This is not to say users will be exposed to anything and everything on Watch. Content displayed in the Watch menu will be personalized and targeted to each user based on what’s trending, their likes and what their friends are watching.
Shows on Watch also receive their own Watch pages, where users can go to see the latest episodes, comment and follow the shows, and get updates on their News Feed as they would with fan pages. The publishers would be able to track video performance, engagement, and operate as they would with a fan page.
In terms of tracking, Watch is a great source of qualitative insights which can complement a brand’s existing analytics and collections of data.
Through Watch, brands have the opportunity to engage with viewers like never before, responding in real-time to questions and comments as they watch. They are able to track fan affinity for specific shows and products through a social lens, leveraging real-time engagement. Watch could also serve as an arena for piloting content. Potential new shows or existing ones, content themes, products, and even new characters could be tested through capsule content published exclusively on social (call it a “social focus group”).
Facebook could still compete more directly with Netflix and HBO when it debuts its long-format content in 2018. Yet, Facebook wants to be clear, its goal is not to buy content, as Dan Rose, VP of Partnerships on Facebook told Reuters: “We are not focused on acquiring exclusive rights. The idea is to seed this with good content.” After all, Watch is about leveraging online video for advertising dollars.
And while Facebook is committed to paying specific partners to produce content in the short-term, in the long-term VP of Media Partnerships Nick Grudin has said, “We’re funding these shows directly now, but over time we want to help lots of creators make videos funded through revenue sharing products like Ad Break.”
It is important to remember that Watch, similar to other Facebook products, is a publishing tool. It is meant to open a fresh revenue stream for Facebook and provide publishers with an innovative avenue to engage with customers and attract new ones.
Ana Gaby Viyella is an account executive in the Digital, Miami.
Juliana Uribe is the head of the Digital, Miami.