More 400 million people use Facebook Watch every month, according to the social network, as it hails 2018 as a breakthrough year for its fledgling video platform. But is its online video strategy actually paying off?
It’s certainly been a milestone year for Facebook, with Watch launching to every country around the world in the last 12 months, with the platform also opening to videos from all Pages, and dozens of Facebook Originals also released.
Three months since that global launch, Facebook says that 75 million people daily spend at least one minute on Watch — and on average, those 75 million daily visitors spend more than 20 minutes in Watch.
“We’re seeing that people are regularly coming back to catch up on the videos they care about and watching for longer periods of time,” wrote Fidji Simo, Head of Video for Facebook in a recent blog post reflecting on 2018.
“With Facebook Watch, we set out to demonstrate what it looks like to build deep bonds through watching online video, instead of just having a passive viewing experience.”
Indeed, Facebook’s latest feature Watch Party (launched this summer) is designed to do that, as it allows groups to watch things together.
“We’ve seen it really take off — there have been more than 12 million Watch Parties in Groups alone, and Watch Parties garner eight times more comments than regular videos in Groups,” said Simo.
However, one of Facebook’s highest profile video releases suggests that Facebook Watch is a still a long way from Netflix-style popularity. Last month, it released the entirety of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly to users in the USA, but the shows only racked up around 950,000 views in total, with Variety noting that almost half of that was driven by one episode: the opening chapter of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
While they’re not Facebook exclusives, and they aired over a decade ago for the first time, the figures aren’t hugely promising for Facebook. There have been some successes for Facebook Watch originals, including Jada Pinkett Smith’s talk show Red Table Talk (4.2 million followers and over 230 million views across almost 20 episodes), Ball In The Family, which has its own Facebook Group (more than 13 million users), plus critically acclaimed dramas such as Sorry for Your Loss and Sacred Lies.
But with 108 million active daily users in the USA and Canada, the numbers are far from the kind of heights that Facebook will need to compete not just with Netflix but with YouTube too. And for that at-least-one-minute metric to become something more substantial, Facebook will need to work out how to build its short-form content as well as convert those audiences into consumers of long-form video.
Facebook is already making moves to continue its most promising Originals, with four shows renewed for a second season – Huda Boss, Five Points, Sacred Lies, and Sorry For Your Loss.
“Above all, our strategy is about identifying the type of content that people want to talk about, and helping people have meaningful connections around that content on Facebook,” concluded Simo.
The company, meanwhile, will be focusing on ways to make things more attractive to advertisers.
“In 2019, we will continue to expand the ways publishers and creators can make money on Facebook. We’ll bring Ad Breaks to video creators in more countries around the world, and will test new Ad Breaks placements, like in livestreams from gaming creators,” explained Simo.