Are You Still Watching?

Social media giant Facebook is mounting its first direct hit to YouTube, giving it a run for its money with its latest offering ‘Watch’, a feature which allows users to watch TV shows in app. The launch of this new dedicated video channel is positioning itself in direct competition against YouTube, Netflix and TV networks.

What is unique about the offering is users will be able to watch shows suggested to them by their mutual friends.  Users will also be able to chat and connect with people during an episode; like, comment and rate the show, as well as joining show fan groups to build communities. Announcing the launch of Watch, founder Mark Zuckerberg believes  “Watching a show doesn't have to be passive. It can be a chance to share an experience and bring people together who care about the same things."

Facebook becomes a content host, buyer and producer

Watch will offer a range of shows, to be rolled out worldwide, with initial content partners including National Geographic and Major League Baseball. As well as professionally produced content, Watch will also broadcast user generated content from its Facebook community.  Giving a nod to Netflix, Watch users will also have access to shows which will be funded and made entirely by Facebook.

Is this just another grab for advertising revenue?

Facebook’s modern day model is all about generating ad revenue and Watch is no different. Bridging social networking and TV viewing together is a means for Facebook to enhance the user experience and maintain users within the platform, ultimately growing ad revenue. Facebook has said it hopes to move exclusively to an advertising revenue share model in the future and is already offering publishers a share of revenue generated from video ads it plans to place in its content.

Whilst Watch isn’t yet accessible outside the US, ad buyers are optimistic for its potential as an advertising platform, with the opportunity to advertise in a dedicated video tab as opposed to a crowed Facebook news feed.

Research from GroupM’s Q2 2017 Tracker shows that watching TV has a daily reach of 77% for all adults. Just a stone’s throw away from that figure is Facebook with a daily reach of 71%. The daily reach of subscription TV has grown progressively; by 5% in the last year. This steady growth signifies the relevant move for Facebook into this territory. 

Will viewers opt for the subscription free model?

Watch will be tough competition for the leaders in on-demand video, especially Netflix and Amazon Prime, as users now have a subscription free option (the advertisers are paying after all!). However, current statistics show that 58% of US households have an Amazon subscription (source: The Motley Fool, April 2017); whilst Netflix boosts 51m streaming subscribers. These are significant audiences that may or may not choose to cancel their subscriptions – time will tell. Watch will need to hit a quality mark that the other operators are already providing. With the fragmentation of content rights, Watch could just become part of a viewing jigsaw.

Add on or be damned

This is an interesting move for Facebook, as is it now using its platform for much more than just a social networking site; it recently launched Facebook Collection, an in-app shopping tool. Additional features such as lens, Instagram Stories and Instagram Shoppable have been added in the hopes of maintaining users in app. All other competitors are doing the same – YouTube has announced social features, whilst Twitter has also entered the live broadcasting arena. At some point these platforms are going to struggle to retain their unique selling point.

For now, Facebook has placed its bet on video, albeit unique video content, in its latest attempt to keep us watching.

Some of the original programming that will be available on Watch

A&E’s “Bae or Bail:” – Reality TV game show where couples face their fears and see who runs

All Def Digital’s “Inside the Office” – A look inside the office life at Russel Simmons’ hip-hop media empire

Billboard’s “How it Went Down” – A documentary series of musicians sharing crazy stories

David Lopez’s “My Social Media Life” – A reality show about the social media star’s life

Gabby Bernstein – Motivational speaker and author answers fans’ life questions in live and recorded segments

Golden State Warriors “Championship Rewind” – A behind the scenes look at the Bay Area’s NBA championship 2016-2017 season

Tastemade’s Kitchen Little – This cooking show sees kids watch a how-to recipe video, then instruct a pro chef how to make the dish with comedic results

Major League Baseball – The MLB will broadcast one game a week live on Facebook

Major League Baseball “12:25 Live” –  A comedic look at baseball with help from the fans

Mike Rowe – Rowe finds people who’ve done great things for their community and gives them a special experience in return

Nas Daily – Vlogger Nas makes videos with his biggest friends each day

Univision Deportes’ “Liga MX” – Live coverage of LigaMX soccer matches

National Geographic’s “We’re Wired that Way:” – Mini-documentaries about weird quirks of humanity like songs you can’t get out of your head

Nat Geo WILD’s “Safari Live” – Watch live safaris led by National Geographic’s guides

NASA’s “Science @ NASA” – Explore science topics in quick four to five-minute episodes

NBA’s “WNBA All-Access” – A behind the scenes show with women’s basketball stars

The Dodo’s “Comeback Kids: Animal Edition” features determined animals facing difficult conditions or challenges meet people who refuse to give up on them.

Tommy Mac – A master woodworker gives live tutorials on how to make furniture