In a bid to further its push into video content, Facebook recently rolled out its new Watch function in the United States. Watch looks to serve as a new platform for shows on Facebook, available on mobile, computers and on its TB apps.
According to Facebook, Watch aims to be personalised to users, allowing them to discover new shows organised around what their friends and communities are viewing.. For example, sections such as “Most Talked About” and “What’s Making People Laugh” will be made available. This will be based on interactions such as comments and reactions in the community. Some other features the new offering boasts includes shows in episode-format, to a “Watchlist” which allows users to keep track of the shows they are following.
“We’ve learned from Facebook Live that people’s comments and reactions to a video are often as much a part of the experience as the video itself,” the blog post read.
In a conversation with Marketing, Justin Peyton, chief strategy officer, APAC, at DigitasLBi, said that Facebook’s move with the launch of Watch is expected. This is because video has been a battle ground for Facebook and Alphabet (which comprises of Google and YouTube) for a long time.
“Facebook’s daily traffic is so huge that it would be naïve to think that the platform would not steal some viewership and ad revenue from YouTube, but their success with the platform is also far from assured,” Peyton explained.
Agreeing with Peyton was Abhishek Bhattacharjee, chief digital officer, IPG Mediabrands Malaysia, who added that it is a “great, imperative move” from Facebook to establish itself deeper into the screen time of audiences. Video has seen a surge on all platforms in terms of creation, curation and consumption alike. He added that the rise of high-speed data mobility has had a lot to contribute to this shift in audience consumption pattern.
“Whilst YouTube has had an advantage thus far, it is to be seen how Facebook leverages this space,” Bhattacharjee added.
For Jean-Marc Thomas, head of digital at Carat Asia Pacific, Facebook’s move with Watch was a logical decision, especially after the launch of its Facebook Live feature. This coupled with the growth and adoption of Instagram and its Stories feature, which is essentially short user-generated video content, has also allowed the company to make a sound push into video.
“From day one, Facebook has been always looking at keeping the users within their own platform, focusing primarily on mobile users since a couple of years ago,” Thomas said. This includes developing features for users to spend more time on Facebook, from creating events for a user and his or her friends to join, to selling private goods.
Where will the ad dollars flow?
Needless to say, the battle for ad dollars is on, and may see a shift in ad dollars from YouTube, according to both Carat’s Thomas and IPG’s Bhattacharjee.
“Beyond the fact that Facebook will try to prove that users stay longer and do watch the videos, it will also claim a safer brand environment and hence the dollars will shift away from YouTube. I don’t see why Facebook will not leverage on the YouTube case about brand safety, which is a big issue right now for all brands advertising on YouTube,” Thomas explained.
Meanwhile, Bhattacharjee hopes the move will help increase the video and hence digital pie, rather than eating into YouTube’s current share. While YouTube has performed well over the years and delivered results for advertisers, Facebook video has shown a lot of promise.
He added Facebook’s next step should be to look into the measurement and transparency parameters that need to be addressed as concerns surrounding these issues become a source of recurrent dissatisfaction amongst advertisers, in varying degrees for both YouTube and Facebook.
“If Facebook does manage to offer a plausible solution to these issues, it might be able to command the lion’s share of video advertising dollars,” Bhattacharjee added.
When asked if the move would take off given YouTube’s established position in the space, Bhattacharjee said that its success will depend on a few things Facebook needs to pay critical attention to – primarily content.
“While the initial content test partnerships which Facebook has initiated are a good step, it is still to be seen how it leverages user generated video content,” Bhattacharjee added.
Revenue sharing options for content creators will also be pivotal in determining the depth and quality of user generated content that Facebook can attract. Bhattacharjee explained:
Currently Facebook tends to be more of a discovery platform with a ‘lean back’ viewing habit, rather than YouTube’s dominant ‘lean forward’ active viewing prominence.
Hence, defining the positioning of the platform will be instrumental in gauging which part of the digital advertising pie Facebook can attract. It will also determine the kind of user engagement it can deliver for brands, purely from a video advertising perspective.
Meanwhile, Carat’s Thomas is of the view that the new Watch platform will allow Facebook to maintain users within its platform.
“That is likely an end goal for Facebook which is looking at keeping users longer on the platform, hence driving more brands to want to advertise on it,” Thomas said. He added that currently, Facebook has plenty of data and information about its users, which allows the social media giant to offer content which is more relevant to the end user.
“YouTube does lack this part of the game, and in my personal opinion, we sometimes struggle to get the right audiences on this platform. Facebook does have more information on their users, and it will now offer another feature for the brands to expose their ads and probably video content,” Thomas explained.
In the battle for attention and relevance, brands should not wait for a winner, DigitasLBi’s Peyton said. Instead brands should consider how they test and compare the performance of Watch, to what they are already doing with YouTube.
“From there, they should optimise spend behind performance. But it will have to start with dipping their toes in the water,” Peyton added.
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