At the moment, it's pretty safe to say that Facebook Watch isn't taking off as Facebook would like.
Sure, Watch growth is rising - Facebook says that 50 million people in the US now spend at least a minute each month on its dedicated video platform, while total Watch view time is up 14x since the start of 2018. But given Facebook has also been looking to promote Watch in new ways, using News Feed prompts to get users across to it, that's not really that amazing. Facebook has more than 241 million monthly active users in North America, so 50 million viewing Watch content for a single minute isn't exactly a strong endorsement.
The flaw here seems to be the 'if you build it, they will come' mentality, which may also be partly at play with Instagram's IGTV. Usage stats show that video consumption is rising, that people are watching more video content on social platforms - so if we give them a dedicated video space, they should gravitate towards that. Right?
As it turns out, what people gravitate towards is video content aligned with their specific interests, and in order to attract large audiences, you need to provide video content with broad-ranging appeal.
So how will Facebook get more users across? By re-making 'The Real World'.
That's right - as reported by TechCrunch, Facebook has purchased the rights to The Real World, the former hit reality TV show which first aired on MTV some 26 years ago.
And that does make some sense - The Real World has been a ratings winner, and has been running for a staggering 32 seasons. The audience for the show has dipped significantly in recent outings, but there is still life in the format - MTV UK's 'Geordie Shore' follows a similar template, and has been an international winner for the company.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook has signed on for three different single-season runs of 12 episodes each, localized for the U.S., Mexico and Thailand. Is this the big show Facebook needs to spark mass adoption of Watch? Probably not - but there are some additional elements within the details that do make this an intriguing prospect.
TechCrunch also notes that "fans will get a chance to vote on who’ll join as the final cast member and connect with the housemates through Facebook Watch Party’s synchronized viewing chat rooms", adding the interactive elements of social media into the video consumption process. Facebook's also working on live game shows for Watch, with users able to participate via the app, while they also have a "World’s Most Amazing Dog" show in the works, with its own interactive elements already built into the back end of Facebook's app.
The impetus for this is research which shows that people are increasingly using social media apps as they watch TV content, while the high interaction levels on live-stream broadcasts also underline that viewers want to get involved.
Take the best of social and combine it with the best of TV and you should be on a winner. 'Should' being key.
The problem with this approach is that we don't know for sure if people want to play a more active part in the TV content they consume, whether there's a place for social and a place for passive video consumption, and they two won't necessarily connect when melded together. It may be that people enjoy discussing the TV shows they watch, but they don't necessarily want to participate in them in real-time - and if that's the case, then investment in formats like this might not be the key to unlocking the potential of Facebook (and social media more broadly) as the video medium of choice.
But we don't know - Facebook is likely better placed to determine such trends with its data centers of user insights. But it may be that, rather than interaction, great content is the only thing that will bring viewers across, which is an area where Facebook is already trailing YouTube, Netflix and Amazon, and may not be able to catch up.
Without significant investment, of course. If Facebook shelled out big money, they could definitely purchase a big show - and it may be, as noted, that 'The Real World' is it. If Facebook can hook a big audience, and use that to showcase Watch, it could encourage further investment, more big shows, and Facebook could stay with the pack, and remain in the running to take a bigger share of that projected $70 billion per annum of TV ad spend through to 2020.
Facebook has the reach, it has the social elements, it recently rolled out Watch to all regions. If it can get them all in line, the basic math would suggest that Facebook can win out.
But basic math and creative don't always match up. It'll be interesting to see how Facebook pitches 'The Real World', and what they come up with next.