‘It could be compelling’: media agencies welcome Facebook Watch’s European expansion

Facebook Watch

Facebook has partnered with a handful of European digital publishers including LadBible and Copa90 to fuel the expansion of Watch, its longer-form video platform. After a subdued start, buyers in the UK say it will spark interest in brands keen to leverage new, and cheap, opportunities.

Facebook revealed its vision for Watch last year and since then has heavily funded several predominantly US publishers and individual creators to bring content onto the platform, ranging from news and sport to original entertainment.

In Europe, the progress was slower though it has forged a number of partnerships with the likes of ProSiebenSat.1 in Germany, Le Monde in France, and C4 News and BBC News to create dedicated content for Watch.

Over the past year, it’s learnt that the shows with the biggest draw feature celebrities, influencers or other public figures and bring viewers through more interactive tools like Groups, Stories and Watch Parties.

It’s now doubling down on this strategy and has brought more publishers into the fold. In the UK, this includes youth focused LadBible, culinary platform Tastemade and sports publisher Copa90.

Tastemade will create three new weekly series, including ‘Date Fails’ featuring Conor Maynard, ‘The Healthful Life’ with Jahannah James and ‘Gamer Snacks’ with Arron Crascall.

LadBible will be behind two competitive reality series, the first called ‘Custom’ with Graffiti Kings, the second called ‘Fantastic Machines’ with Joseph's Machines and ‘Beasted!’ with Eddie Hall, where people are given training, nutrition and lifestyle makeover by one of the world’s strongest men.

Finally, Copa90 will explore the footballing cities in a weekly series called ‘Matchday Menus’ while a series called ‘The Edge’ starring Lisa Freestyle will delve into topics like science, nutrition and psychology. It will also create a weekly nine-minute episode series called ‘Sunday Football Roast’ with Kevin Freshwater where comedians will roast each other about the football teams they support.

Outside of the UK, it's inked new partnerships with Brainpool and Burta in Germany, Brut in France, Ciaopeople in Italy and 2btube in Spain.

The draw for publishers is the opportunity to be paid a fee by Facebook for top performing shows. Figures vary but publishers have reported anything from $1m to $10m for a series.

But the more likely way these new publishers will see returns is through pre- and mid-roll ad breaks.

But outside of the US, brands have been slow to invest marketing dollars into Watch. The barriers have been down to the low audience scale and the lack of inventory available. Facebook will be hoping to kill two birds with one stone by bringing these new partners into the mix.

“If US content partnerships are anything to go by, the new European broadcaster collaborations will likely open the door to strong content opportunities for brand alignment and we expect it to spark interest in brands as a result,” said Deborah King, head of paid social EMEA and WPP media agency, Essence.

“In-stream ad completion rates are also reported to be stronger for organic video (at 90%) than paid video ads, and with more brands looking for video inventory in a sometimes scarce marketplace, Facebook Watch in-stream ads are likely to be compelling formats for inclusion in media campaigns moving forward.”

Facebook has no control over the shows produced and has said branded content is something publishers may explore.

Paul Kasamias, managing partner at Starcom, predicted this could pave the way for advertisers to experiment with format and messages in this long-form, mobile first, environment in a relatively cheap way.

“With the proliferation of mobile and social media, high reach video inventory has largely been dominated by short-form video platforms. This hasn't lent itself to brand content of more than six seconds in length, which has somewhat curtailed investment shift from TV to digital,” he said.

“Brands first to test this new opportunity will benefit from a competitive advantage, particularly in terms of cost, whilst the initial demand is low. We expect cost-per-completions to be some of the lowest available through any channel, given the size of the user base Facebook has and lack of maturity compared to, for example, YouTube TrueView.

“With major broadcasters and therefore popular shows making their way to the platform, we expect advertisers to start planning and buying Facebook Watch separately, capitalising on the opportunity to trial ads normally promoted through TV, VOD and YouTube. Combined with the high and cost-effective reach of Newsfeed, for now brands should consider this opportunity as an extension of existing activity for showcasing short to medium-length video content.”

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