Facebook this month announced a new video app for set-top boxes, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and the Samsung Smart TV.
The free app, rolling out across all devices “soon”, will allow users to watch Facebook content, including live videos, on a much larger scale. The move could even allow the social media giant to compete for TV ad spend by giving it the power to run its growing video content on larger screens.
The app won’t just feature user-generated content; the social network is in conversations to licence original content. It is also pushing some of its publishing partners to create longer videos in an effort to get more TV-style content onto the platform. The demand is clearly there – Facebook users were watching more than 100 million hours of video every day globally in early 2016, and, according to a recent Ofcom report, four in five internet users now watch short video clips online.
What’s unclear is how much appetite users and advertisers will have for a standalone video app. While the company has had no problems getting video content, it hasn’t yet figured out how to make serious money from those videos. But a set-top box app should give Facebook and its partners more opportunities to turn video views into ad revenue.
The news comes as Facebook reports its latest advertising revenue, which soared to $26.89 billion in 2016 – up 57% year-on-year.
The platform is now looking to grow its ad revenue further by jumping on the trend for non-traditional TV viewing. Thinkbox reports that television is watched for an average of an hour a day on content accessed through Netflix, Amazon TV and Now TV, rather than traditional content on Sky, Channel 4 and ITV. To compete with its counterparts, Facebook will need to publish viewing and usage figures to prove its value to advertisers.
The Facebook TV app will, potentially, allow brands to build reach through the platform and develop a strong social media presence by creating and sharing longer-form and higher quality content than is currently seen on the Facebook app in mobile.
A mass migration to the app isn’t expected in the short term. Instead, we should expect to play the long game to see if Facebook viewership figures can compete with those of Netflix and Amazon Prime – if in fact any of these suppliers ever release them.