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Facebook admits it overstated average video view times by between 60 to 80% for two years


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

September 23, 2016 | 3 min read

Video is the future of Facebook however in its drive for supremacy it reportedly overstated its video views for two years by failing to factor in views under three seconds in its ‘average duration of video viewed' metric.


Facebook video views

The news follows on from comments made by Facebook's EMEA vice-president Nicola Mendelsohn earlier this year in which she said she would put money on Facebook becoming "all video over the next five years".

Somewhat stunting its reputation as a video aggregator was the news that it has vastly overstated its average video viewing times by between 60 to 80 per cent; a revelation likely to anger both advertisers and media outlets who adapted spend, staffing and content strategies to adapt to the bloated figures.

When calculating average view times of videos, the company failed to factor in views under three seconds as it did not register anything under three seconds as a view as this could be an accidental impression arising from its autoplay process. However, by failing to include these lost views, the company was swelling view times, and therefore, overstating the engagement videos were receiving.

The Wall Street Journal quotes “people familiar with the situation” claiming that to correct the error, a new metric called Average Watch Time will be rolled out, factoring in all views of any length.

A Facebook statement read: “We recently discovered an error in the way we calculate one of our video metrics.

“This error has been fixed, it did not impact billing, and we have notified our partners both through our product dashboards and via sales and publisher outreach. We also renamed the metric to make it clearer what we measure. This metric is one of many our partners use to assess their video campaigns.”

The issue also opens up a data debate, with many agencies likely to question the legitimacy of Facebook’s guarded statistics and processes.

Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, recently broached the subject at Dmexco. He told The Drum: “We’re hearing from the Proctor & Gambles, and Unilevers – from Marc Pritchard and Keith Weed – about the inadequacies of measurement, such as Facebook’s three-second view, with 50 per cent of the time the sound is turned off, equating to a 15, or 30 second view."

The revelation also follows on from Facebook's announcement earlier this week that it had struck several measurement tie-ups with third-parties, including: MarketShare; Nielsen; Oracle and Visual IQ, in a bid to show advertisers that it is not ‘grading its own homework’.

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