How Facebook is Building the Future of Social Media with ‘Watch’

How Facebook is Building the Future of Social Media with ‘Watch’

Facebook has become a ubiquitous presence in most everyone’s day-to-day lives. From sharing political news stories to commenting on a friend’s vacation photos, Facebook has cornered the social media market by being the de facto social media site along with buying, and sometimes straight copying, competitors. One area where Facebook has lagged behind the competition, however, has been the production original video content. That’s where Facebook Watch comes into play.

Facebook Watch (“Watch”) is a new video platform, rolled out in August 2017, that seeks to compete with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and YouTube Red. Watch operates much in the same way as TV does, using an ad-supported business model as opposed to a subscription-based one. Some ad companies are skeptical that the current usage of 5 to 15 second ‘mid-roll’ ads in Watch will work. Nonetheless, Facebook is allowing for some creative editing of their content much in the same way TV shows are edited for commercial breaks.

Facebook believes that the future of social media is in video. Already, 40% of Facebook users say they watch at least one video on the Watch platform per week. The ultimate plan is not to compete with high-end, critical dramas on competitors like Netflix or HBO. Instead, Watch looks to create thematic, episodic shows that are focused on meaningful social interactions and engagement.

Let’s take a look at how the nascent Facebook Watch is moving into this future of social media and what exciting new content they are putting out.

Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

Recently, Facebook has faced heavy scrutiny over its role in spreading supposed misinformation and hate speech prior to the 2016 presidential election. The social media company has taken ownership of this role and actively pursued ways in which to limit this phenomenon, such as letting users rank news sources as credible and shifting focus from publishers/brands to more friend and family content on Facebook’s News Feed.

This may seem like a big black eye for Facebook, but in actuality Facebook is using this shift in order to promote Facebook Watch. While the recent changes have led to declining video views for their newsfeed short video format, it has allowed Facebook to start favoring longer serialized and branded content in the feed. In fact, in 2017, Facebook saw the number of publishers and creators posting branded content each month on Watch increase by 4 times.

Exclusive TV Shows and Content

One of the most interesting forays into original content on Facebook Watch has been a show about a baby hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo named Fiona. It seems simple, but this show recently clocked over 20+ million views for its Season 1 Recap.. (That is astounding for a show about a baby hippo!) This type of programming is exactly what Facebook is aiming for: relatively short, “snackable” content that works well with Facebook’s sharing platform and provides advertisers valuable eyeballs.

Facebook is spending about $50,000 to $70,00 per episode for their short-form programs and anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million per episode for longer shows. If it can create enough original content then it could build an ad program that fully supports the content costs upfront. Companies like BuzzFeed, Vox Media, Attn, and Group Nine Media are already paid by Facebook to provide videos for the newsfeed format, but they have inked deals to produce original and exclusive content on Watch.

Some professionally produced shows airing or being produced include:

  • Returning the Favor,” a program where Mike Rowe travels across the U.S. in search of people who are giving back to their communities;
  • Ball in the Family,” a documentary that follows LaVar Ball and his sons as they take on the basketball world;
  • Loosely Exactly Nicole,” a scripted comedy by comedian Nicole Byer;
  • Tom vs Time,” a special that documents the off-field lifestyle that propels Tom Brady to be one of the top football players in the NFL.

Sport Shows and Live Sports

Shows like “First Take: Your Take,” which will stream three times a week at 3PM ET, take full advantage of the interactive format by having viewers submit their “hot take” videos with one viewer being selected to debate the hosts on each week’s final show. The show debuts January 29th in order to leverage the Super Bowl for the show’s premiere (a smart play for a sports-centric show).

Facebook is interested enough in broadcasting live sports that it has hired an executive for negotiating sports deals, and it is willing to spend a “few billion dollars” to pursue that goal. Watch already broadcast free live Major League Baseball games every Friday night from August to the end of the season. They also plan to broadcast 47 live NCAA men’s basketball games after announcing a deal with digital sports broadcaster Stadium. With several brands and social media companies leveraging events like the Super Bowl to grow in the mobile streaming market, Facebook also wants to make a foray into the competitive sports streaming landscape with Watch.

More Viewer Participation

The goal for Facebook Watch is to integrate the channel’s communication tools directly into the shows themselves, thus creating a more interactive show that captivates viewers’ attention. “We’ve found that communities formed around video like TV shows or sports create a greater sense of belonging than many other kinds of communities,” said Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg recognizes that by instantly connecting viewers, you remove the two middle steps necessary to sharing a show you like; recommending shows to friends and providing a way to view it. Now, all you have to do is share the show on your feed and it is easily accessible to your friends and family, similar to how cat videos and funny memes are shared now. For example, if enough people comment “HaHa” on a video, then it will show up in dedicated comedy sections that curate other videos your friends found amusing.

Facebook is also experimenting with “Watch Party,” a feature that lets members of groups watch videos at the same time while engaging with each other via comments. There is even a live show called “Make Up or Break Up” where couples in crisis ask the Facebook community whether they should try to make their relationship work or not.

The goal of all of these features is simply to connect people and create a more interactive experience, something Facebook has excelled in since its inception.

How to Leverage Facebook Watch

It seems Facebook is making all the right moves and learning from the past mistakes of previous video and TV companies. And currently, most financial prognosticators think Watch will be a “blockbuster success.” Brands and content creators would be wise to jump on this opportunity and ride this wave into social media’s future.

If you are considering producing content for platforms like Facebook Watch, it’s important to keep the Wochit Effect in mind. The Wochit Effect is the idea that viewer behavior is more important than being a ‘creative genius,’ and publishers/brands should give people who have the best knowledge of their audience control over the video production process.


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