Facebook Watch: What We've Built & What's Ahead

Fidji Simo, Head of Video at Facebook Watch discusses the growth and content that hit the platform in 2018 and look ahead to investing in original content in 2019.
Facebook watch, Facebook, OTT content, Middle east streaming service, Video on demand, Social media content, Original content

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2018 was a big year for Facebook Watch. Watch launched to every country around the world, we opened the platform to videos from all Pages, and debuted dozens of Facebook Originals.

Amazing new content on Watch really got people talking — from Jada Pinkett Smith's breakout talk show Red Table Talk, to the critically acclaimed dramas Sorry For Your Loss starring Elizabeth Olsen and Sacred Lies from showrunner Raelle Tucker, to live LaLiga football matches in the Indian subcontinent. We also kick-started our slate of global shows with our first interactive game show Confetti expanding to six new markets this year, and MTV's The Real World arriving next year in the US, Mexico, and Thailand. And creators around the world, like Nas Daily, Jay Shetty, and Laura Clery, are thriving on the platform with their own brands of humor, insight, and creativity.

Three months since our global launch, there are already more than 400 million people monthly and 75 million people daily who spend at least one minute on Watch — and on average, these 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. In this post, we're sharing more details on our video strategy and a range of new updates for Watch.

BUILDING WATCH FOR CONVERSATION, COMMUNITY & CONNECTIONS

We know that people have a range of video offerings available to them, but Watch is more than just library of videos — it's a place where people can follow video creators they care about, start conversations about videos with friends, and build communities of fans with shared interests. Watching video has always been a social experience, but as people increasingly watch video online, it has become more solitary. With Facebook Watch, we set out to invent what it looks like to build deep bonds through watching online video, instead of just having a passive viewing experience.

The ability to connect more deeply around videos is what sets the video experience on Facebook apart. We learned with Facebook Live how powerful it is when people can connect with each other around videos in real time, and we've been building new video formats and features that capture the togetherness of Live.

This year we launched Watch Party to everyone on Facebook, and 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. People can start their own Watch Parties with friends, and we’re also seeing Watch Parties from all kinds of creators and publishers – from Italian creator Benedetta Rossi who hosts Watch Parties for her recipe videos, to Shaquille O'Neal's recent Watch Party for favorite episodes of his Facebook Watch show, Big Chicken Shaq.

We launched Premieres, letting creators, publishers, and people watch new videos together with other fans. And we've introduced polling and gamification tools, giving video creators the power to create fun, unique, and interactive content for their fans. In the coming months, we're focused on bringing more of these social experiences to Watch, making it easier to find and watch videos together with friends.

We're also working to unify the video experience across Facebook. Right now, people can find and watch videos on Facebook in a number of different places — Watch, News Feed, Search, Pages and more — and all of these can feel different. We want to make the experience of watching video feel immersive no matter where you discovered a video. As part of this effort, we'll be testing a few things in the coming months, like creating a darker background whenever you immerse yourself into a video on mobile, unifying these different viewing experiences under one.

And today we're sharing that people can now find Watch on more surfaces. In August, we rolled out Watch globally on mobile, and from today, Watch is now available around the world on desktop and on Facebook Lite.

CREATING MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUR PARTNERS

Since the beginning, we've been focused on making Watch a place where all creators and publishers can find an audience and build a community of passionate fans — and importantly, earn money for their work. We know that building a sustainable ecosystem for video creators is the best way to bring great content to the platform, and this was our goal with opening Watch to all Pages and rolling out Ad Breaks. Our initial launch of Ad Breaks was to five countries in August, and have been focused on rolling out more broadly over the past few months. Ad Breaks are now available to eligible Pages in 40countries around the world.

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 professional gamers. We want to bring Brand Collabs Manager to more countries to help match brands and creators for sponsorship deals, and will be expanding our fan subscriptions test.

We're also exploring new opportunities for advertisers. In September, we introduced In-Stream Reserve for premium online video and TV buyers to deliver their ads alongside the highest-quality Watch content, and next year we will continue to provide advertisers with more options to tailor their video ad campaigns and connect with their target audience.

In all this, we've learned that for monetization products to work, they must balance the unique needs of video creators, people, and advertisers, providing value for all parties. Next year we will continue focusing on enhancing these tools to enable publishers and creators to generate meaningful revenue from their engaged, loyal audiences on Facebook.

INVESTING IN ORIGINAL CONTENT THAT SPARKS CONVERSATIONS

Since launch, we've funded a range of Facebook Originals on Watch, and many have found their fit on Facebook with strong, engaged audiences. With our Originals, we've intentionally focused on content with the potential to have an extended life on Facebook beyond the initial airing of the shows, that sparks conversations and two-way interactions. For example, the hosts of Red Table Talk poll their audience for discussion topics for their weekly show, Mike Rowe's Returning The Favor selects participants for future episodes based on community recommendations, and the Ball In The Family Facebook Group is full of conversation between episodes and seasons.

We've learned that in the age of "peak TV," simply being entertaining or having high production values isn't good enough. A show needs to strike a chord in the broader cultural zeitgeist or serve a group of passionate people that wants something it doesn't currently get elsewhere.

That "something" could come in the form of a personal connection with the talent or content that covers a niche subject matter. With shows on Facebook, those personal connections are possible, and those fan bases are often already well-formed and reachable on the platform. This is the lens we use when funding original series and the advice we give partners looking to create engaging content on Facebook.

As we move into 2019, we will continue funding Originals, and we're delighted to announce the renewal of three shows for a second season: Huda Boss, Five Points, Sacred Lies, and Sorry For Your Loss. These shows all cultivated deeply engaged fan bases who came for the episodes, but stayed for the conversations — and are a great example of what can happen when content and community come together seamlessly;

As mentioned above, our content strategy goes beyond our Originals — including licensing, partnerships, and more — so that we can test and learn about new video experiences. 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.

LOOKING AHEAD

Since launch, our aim with Facebook Watch has been to create a destination that people can visit to find the videos that matter to them, the video creators they want to see, and other fans that they can connect with. Everything we do is in service of this, and we'll continue this mission in 2019.

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