Facebook is very keen to push communal video viewing, seeing it as a key component in the success of its expanded video efforts.
That's largely attributed to evolving TV consumption trends - various studies have shown that traditional TV viewers are increasingly engaging on social platforms to discuss the content they're watching. So if people are watching TV and discussing it on social anyway, combining the two should be a clear winner. Right?
That appears to be the thinking, and this week, TechCrunch has reported that Facebook is working on a new communal video viewing option within Messenger to tap into this.
According to TechCrunch, the option would:
"...allow you to “tap to watch together now” and “chat about the same videos at the same time” with chat thread members receiving a notification that a co-viewing is starting. “Everyone in this chat can control the video and see who’s watching”
This is based on a discovery within the back-end code of Messenger, so there are no screenshots or evidence of the tool in action yet. But it does make sense - within the last few months, Facebook has also added similar tools like 'Premieres', which enables video creators to broadcast pre-recorded videos at a set time, and 'Watch Party' in Facebook Groups, which enables users to schedule set times to watch video content together.
As noted, this theoretically moves in line with digital video consumption trends, where users are keen to watch and discuss video content. But combining the two hasn't exactly worked out that way as yet, even though such trends have been evident for some time.
Back in 2016, Twitter touted the benefits of its TV-connected video viewing experience, which would not only enable users to watch the video content on their TV screens, but also see the related tweet discussions rolling by in real-time (below is an early mock-up of the tool).
That makes sense - especially considering some 72% of TV fans say that tweets play a role in their TV viewing.
But it never really worked out, and back in May, Twitter announced that that it was shutting down its TV apps for Roku, Android TV and Xbox.
It makes theoretical sense that people would like to incorporate the viewing and social elements of the TV viewing process in one, but in practice, maybe it's not what users are after.
Another consideration, of course, is the popularity of live-streaming content - live-streams generate up to 6x more engagement than regular video content, because people can interact with the live videos, they can 'like' certain moments. The immediate response aspect of live-streaming is a key feature - so again, it makes theoretical sense that viewers would like to do the same with pre-recorded videos too.
But it's not the same. In some ways, scheduling a video watch party online feels too much like replacing real-life engagement - and considering that the people you talk to most on such platforms are normally close friends, who live within your immediate proximity, it's probably more appealing to actually go watch it with them in real life.
That seems to be where the data and the real-world application are failing to meet. Yes, logically, based on the insights available, this should be a popular function. But in reality, probably not.
That's not to say it definitely won't work, and Facebook is obviously working with a usage trend it's recognized. But it hasn't taken off yet.
Maybe, in this case, the data doesn't tell the full story.