Watch Out, Facebook’s About

31/08/2017

Another month in Adland, another announcement from Facebook – and again, it’s the roll-out of a feature that seems somewhat familiar. Not content at turning Instagram into Snapchat with its version of Stories, its next target appears to be even bigger; YouTube.

As a new home for original video content, Watch extends Facebook’s brand into yet another category. It’s aiming to become a go-to destination for video consumption, rather than its current state of serendipitous video discovery via the News Feed, conveniently hosted within the existing app.

Facebook have put time and resource into this project most probably because the product will provide yet another stream of advertising revenue, alongside its current video ad model.

Current experiments with “mid-roll” advertising – interrupting video clips with crudely timed ads on short-form video – appears to be going down like a lead balloon. And rightly so – it’s far from a desired user experience.

Within Watch – where users will be able to indulge in longer form video – ad placements before the content will feel a lot more like YouTube’s current pre-roll delivery mechanism, a set-up far more acceptable to users and less damaging to brands which invest.

The soon-to-come tab on Facebook can be likened to YouTube’s Red and Snapchat’s Discover sections. These platforms have already done the hard work of guiding publishers to create unique, original content that works across mobile in short form. Facebook will be looking to swoop in on this and go beyond with its ability to share to connected TV screens at the touch of a button – not currently a feature of Snapchat.

With Watch, Facebook’s claim for a slice of the lucrative “TV ad budget” becomes even stronger, with live TV viewership on the decline and social video consumption showing no sign of slowing.

Facebook will hope to see the product scale quickly, launching with hundreds of original shows, including content from the likes of Buzzfeed, Condé Nast, and a 12-part series based on its popular ‘Humans of New York’ page. With 45% share of the ad break revenue being claimed as the loot for content partners, they won’t be short of willing suitors to produce content for them. And we won’t have to wait long. The feature is already being rolled out, albeit for a handful of select users in the US.

It goes without saying that Google will keep a close eye on Watch – though it’s the broadcasters who need to Watch out, particularly if consumption habits keep changing.

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