While Facebook's Watch platform hasn't yet become the traditional TV rival Facebook hoped it might, that hasn't slowed The Social Network's monetization plans for its premium video offering, with a new program being launched to capitalize on the most popular Watch content, and give advertisers another way to maximize reach.
This week, Facebook has launched its new 'Facebook Showcase' ad program, which is aimed at giving bigger advertisers the opportunity to boost brand awareness in connection to popular Watch shows.
As explained by Facebook:
"Facebook’s video ecosystem is growing, with a diverse mix of content from original series to creator content. With a growing roster of popular programs such as "Returning the Favor" and "Red Table Talk" on Facebook Watch, we're introducing a new premium video ad program: Facebook Showcase. Showcase will give online video and TV ad buyers participating in the upfront selling cycle new opportunities to reach their target audiences within the highest-quality videos on Facebook."
The program essentially aims to provide larger scale ad opportunities through the most popular Watch programs. As noted, while Watch hasn't taken off in a major way, it has proven popular with some audiences - according to TechCrunch, Watch currently serves over 400 million monthly viewers who are consuming at least one minute of content, with 75 million of those averaging around 20 minutes watch time each day.
75 million dedicated viewers may not be a huge success - a tiny fraction of Facebook's more than 2.3 billion total active audience - but for comparison, 'The Big Bang Theory', one of the most watched US TV shows, averaged around 18m viewers per episode in 2018.
Indeed, Facebook says that its Nielsen-verified Watch audience numbers are already close to reaching 'TV-like scale' - and they're not done with their Watch programming efforts yet.
While, as reported by Digiday, Facebook is only looking to renew around a third of the existing news programs that it's thus far funded for Facebook Watch, it is making significant investment into new, big-name programs.
They've announced a new animated comedy series for Watch called "Human Discoveries", which will star Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick, while they're also close to launching their reimagined versions of "The Real World”, with new seasons in the US, Mexico and Thailand. Viewers will be able to vote on cast members to enter each of the new Real World houses, and vote on which three past seasons of the show will be available on Watch, adding a uniquely interactive element, which Facebook is hoping will help them bring social media engagement and TV viewing behavior closer together.
Given the broader trends, you can see how Facebook Showcase will hold appeal, particularly if any of these new programs gains significant traction.
Facebook's Showcase program will offer three types of video promotion:
- In-Stream Reserve allows advertisers to reach people watching video from a selection of hundreds of the most engaging, highest quality publishers and creators. These placements are bought in advance at a fixed cost and delivered to in-target audiences verified by Nielsen.
- In-Stream Reserve Categories includes all the features of In-Stream Reserve, and allows advertisers to reach people within contextually relevant content. These categories include sports, fashion/beauty and entertainment. And today, we're adding food and news categories as well.
- Sponsorships allow advertisers to be the exclusive sponsor of a program for US viewers, giving advertisers the opportunity to place their ads in specific shows.
Facebook says that its Showcase ad options will enable advertisers to "reach audiences that are becoming harder to find on linear TV", while it's also pushing the brand safety angle, in light of recent concerns around YouTube content.
Definitely, you can see that the program will hold appeal to brands considering alternate approaches - but really, Facebook Watch still needs a big hit, one or two major, must-see programs that spark interest and get a significant audience across to the platform.
Could "The Real World" be it? Could Facebook be on the cusp of the next big video trend, which will push Watch to the next level?
It hasn't found its place just yet, but if Facebook can get it right, there's still a huge amount of potential, with more and more consumers migrating to VOD providers and platforms.
The TV ad industry was worth around $70 billion in 2018. It's definitely worth Facebook taking a shot at diverting some of that spend.