Can Facebook Watch make TV social again

This week Facebook Watch the on-demand video service was launched into the increasingly crowded Australian video marketplace. The service was first launched a year ago exclusively in the U.S. Facebook has added discovery and participatory viewing (like Watch Party) features to the service over the course of the last year. Along with the international roll-out more publishers can now use ‘Ad-breaks’, which allows content creators to run pre, mid-roll or image overlay advertising on their content.

My first thought was to figure out where Facebook Watch fits into the video landscape. I recently wrote a piece about this, and used the matrix below to plot the current players.

Video Landscape (1)I’ve put Facebook Watch in the bottom left quadrant in a cluster of a group of platforms trying to create video hubs with the hope that they can create sticky experiences and keep users coming back. Until there is a vast content library, and the social features take off with audiences its a middling offering. If the goal is to attract TV dollars, Facebook watch will need to add more titles and also shows relevant to Australian audiences. The fascinating graphic from Statista below shows how the likes of Netflix and Amazon are way ahead of Facebook in terms of spend on content.

Video_content_spending_in_2017

The initial videos added to my Watch playlist were mostly those that my friends had liked or from pages I was following. I have found it useful to watch short clips of stand-up comedians, US talk shows, sports highlights rather than go to YouTube and search for these. But I had the same affection for Instagram TV for a week before I abandoned it and surrendered to Netflix 100%.

Facebook and social viewing

Facebook has gone on a buying spree picking up lucrative sports rights and commissioning shows, and if its intended watch and connect behavior works it would set it apart from other streaming services. This would take it to the right of the matrix, and make for a more active user experience. A couple of years ago Periscope was used in this manner by fans watching live steams of sporting events like boxing and UFC.

This social viewing has been attempted before by Netflix and YouTube but didn’t really catch on. At the last election Facebook live-streamed the third election debate on the News Limited page to luke warm results. Perhaps a more popular and engaging topic like a reality show launch episode or a one-off game show might elicit more social and live engagement. However Facebook is already a social network with proven engagement and community building capability. With the right content it has a good shot at making it work.

The other feature Watch Party (enabled within Groups) could be another secret weapon as the people we want to discuss our favorite show moments with are often are close friends who are already connected on Facebook. The caveat is that only videos that are already on Facebook can be shared, which means first getting creators to put their content on the platform.

Facebook Watch Party

I’m surprised that there have been no partnerships have been done with reality shows like The Block and The Bachelor to encourage Watch Parties by Facebook Groups comprising fans following these shows using highlight clips hosted on their Facebook Pages.

The skinny is that until social viewing can be proven or there is original programming relevant to Australian viewers we’ll have to mostly settle for watch lists from brand pages we already follow. Until then this is not a game-changer by any means except a new placement for brands to trial their existing TVC’s on.

 

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