This likely comes as little surprise to those who’ve been monitoring Facebook’s shift into video, but new reports have emerged that The Social Network's planning to expand its ‘Watch’ video platform into a more YouTube-like offering by opening the tools to individual creators, and adding more opportunities for monetization of content.
As per CNBC:
“Facebook wants to allow more people to create their own shows on Watch, according to three media agencies who asked they remain anonymous because the conversations are private. Instead of buying rights to these shows, however, Facebook wants to create a system where creators can upload their shows for free, then earn a cut of the revenue from ads placed on that content — similar to how YouTube pays its online creators.”
Of course, that’s always been the end game for Watch – while Facebook has paid big dollars for several premium quality shows to boost interest in the offering, they flagged some time ago that those payments would cease, and that the focus would shift to more user-generated content, including live-streams, which would then compliment their established publisher content.
“We just want to start the flywheel going [with publisher content] so that way there’s content and communities that are there that support this use case of people coming to Facebook to specifically engage in that. Long term, our hope is that the business here will primarily be through revenue shares of videos that normal creators and businesses put into the system, rather than the ones we proactively go out and license ourselves.”
That process would eventually enable Facebook to make better recommendations on niche shows alongside their premium content – imagine your DIY live-stream program on NFL showed up as a recommendation alongside actual NFL content? The process has some significant benefits – and while Facebook’s recommendation engine wouldn’t have as much ‘previously watched’ insights as YouTube, they do have many, many more data points to refer to in order to recommend relevant programs to their 2 billion+ users.
And that, of course, is Facebook’s main lure - while YouTube itself claims 1.5 billion monthly logged-on viewers, Facebook now has 2.13 billion monthly actives, with video consumption on the platform growing every day. If Facebook can create a better revenue and incentive model for creators, that could become a big problem for YouTube – especially if Facebook, as expected, launches their new smart home device later this year, which may include an option to more easily stream Facebook content direct to your home TV.
YouTube reported last year that watch time of TV channels on YouTube has doubled since 2016, as has watch time of YouTube content on TV screens.
That’s a key trend worthy of note – while neither YouTube or Facebook are necessarily going to compete with Netflix anytime soon, the growth of digital content being viewed on traditional TVs, as an alternative to regular channels, is an aspect they’re also growing on the back of. YouTube enables such connectivity via various devices, as does Facebook, but a more integrated, Watch-specific version of Facebook’s connection tool could provide a significant boost in viewership for such content.
For marketers, this is a key trend to watch. As Facebook’s Watch audience grows, so too do the opportunities to expand the audience of your own video content, and video ads. Traditional TV ads are expensive, but hyper-targeted Facebook ads could provide more focused reach, at much lower cost.
As noted, the fact that Facebook will switch focus to a more user-generated model is nothing new, but as they do, the added capacity for reach could be significant – especially as Facebook reduces the organic reach of Page posts in the News Feed.
There’s more to come, obviously, but the fact that Facebook’s starting to push these plans more strategically could suggest big changes may be arriving shortly.