Facebook Watch, the social network’s TV-style service, has gone global. Following an initial launch in the US one year ago the spin-off video platform will be available “everywhere” and Facebook is now courting brands to funnel ad spend its way.
To get on media plans, the social network is offering scale, a wider inventory to choose from alongside more original content. It claimed "strong" early results in testing.
Here’s a run down of how it's spinning the latest tool in its arsenal to international advertisers.
TV-style ‘ad breaks’ that people actually watch to the end
Distinct from the news feed, Watch provides a hub with Facebook for longer-form, less serindipic more episodic, content across a variety of genres.
Its original series include Jada Pinkett Smith's talk show Red Table Talk and National Geographic’s We’re Wired that Way – a show exploring humanity’s oddest quirks.
According to figures from Facebook, 50 million people in the US come to Facebook Watch to view videos each month and the total time spent within the tab has increased 14-fold since the start of the year.
Stateside, the social network has been capitalising on this, rolling out its ‘ad breaks’ formats in Watch which offer brands TV-esque pre and mid-roll ads alongside image ads which appear directly below videos.
Now it’s announced that these slots will be available in five more markets including the UK, Australia and Ireland. Next month, they’ll also accessible to advertisers in 21 new markets like Asia, France and Latin America.
The ad-breaks format in Watch is used across other Facebook platfroms on videos longer than three-minutes. Fidji Simo, vice-president of product for Facebook claimed that broadly speaking, just over 70% of mid-roll ads are viewed until the end on Facebook.
“We're seeing more creators and publishers building engaged and loyal audiences, and in turn making meaningful revenue from ad breaks,” she said.
"More direct response advertisers are embracing the format which is something we honestly weren’t sure that they would.
"As [we've been] rolling out different types of advertising inside videos like mobile app install ads and typical direct response ads we’ve also seen strong results. These are with advertisers that are very RIO focused and they measure very carefully every cent they spend, so seeing this increased adoption of the product among them is actually a very encouraging sign for us."
With a reputation for normalising endless news feed thumb-scrolling, and having previously misled advertisers over video views and engagement, Facebook is likely hoping these early results will convince brands it's found a solution to their completion rate woes.
Simo also said Facebook has learned that people are "happiest" when they see ads in longer videos, especially those placed later in the broadcast.
As such, Facebook has updated its ad break guidelines to reflect this.
A lower eligibility threshold for publishers
Facebook wants to open up more inventory on Watch by lowering the monetisation barrier for publishers – which it splits revenue with at 45%/55% respectively.
Where monetisation on Watch was previously reserved to select publishers, any pages are now eligible for ad breaks so long as they: have been creating videos that are at least three-minutes long and generating more than 30,000 one-minute views overall in the past two months;have 10,000 followers; and meet Facebook’s eligibility standards.
Working alongside publishers and traditional broadcasters, the social network is forecast to spend around $1bn on owned content for the service by the end of 2018.
While Watch also features videos from partners and provides a place for users to save videos from their feed they want to watch later, there's been big a big focus from Facebook on creating unique content that's hard to find elsewhere.
WWE is among those to have extoled the virtues of creating shows for Watch, having recently launched an original ‘Mixed Match Challenge’ series on the platform. With over 100 million views, the experiment has given the entertainment company the confidence that platforms like Facebook could become a bigger part of its rights strategy.
Matthew Henick, Facebook’s head of content planning and strategy and media partnerships, said the company wanted to support a wide range of video content from around the world.
“In terms of broader strategy, we will look to fund shows with global appeal,” he added, revealing that Facebook planned to work with producers on scripted programming, be with firms like Endemol Shine or independent creators.
He also said Facebook had plans to subtitle existing content for global audiences.
Along with the announcement that Watch is going global, Facebook is giving creators a new 'loyalty insights' tool.
The feature includes a fresh metric on audience retention, which will allow publishers and creators making videos for Watch to "better program" content that keeps viewers returning.
But, before Facebook convinces brands, it has to convince audiences.
Despite launching last August, around 50% of adult Facebook users in the US said they've never heard of the service. 24% have but they've never used it.
The figures, from Diffusion Group, also showed that 6% of respondents use Facebook Watch at least daily. Another 8% use it weekly and 7% said they watched shows once or twice a month.
Facebook has yet to reveal any plans to launch an awareness campaign for Watch, but if it's convince it's two-billion-strong user base that it's the new Netflix it has some work to do.