As the trends all show, and as everyone is well aware, video consumption is rising on mobile devices. But the TV set remains king of longer-form video viewing.
Netflix reported last year that 70% of its streams end up on connected TVs, as opposed to phones, tablets or PCs, and YouTube has also reported that connected TVs are its fastest-growing segment. While we now have more ways than ever to tune in, our home TV sets are our largest screens, and the layouts of our homes are set up to showcase them as a key communal viewing and interaction device. If you want to win at video, the capacity to show your content on TV sets is key.
Which is where Facebook has now, reportedly, set its sights.
According to a new report from The Information, Facebook has approached Netflix, Disney and other media companies in regards to porting their streaming services onto a new, TV-connected Facebook device.
As per The Information:
"The device, which Facebook is aiming to release this fall, will use the same video-calling technology that's in Facebook’s camera-equipped smart speaker, called Portal, which has a screen of its own and is designed to sit on kitchen counters and desks.[...] The new device, code-named Catalina, will also come with a physical remote and streaming video services similar to other television boxes like Apple TV."
Facebook released its Portal video calling device last year, but thus far, response has been fairly lukewarm.
As reported by Marketing Land, in examining Facebook's Q1 '19 numbers, Portal sales appeared to be fairly flat, with Facebook's overall hardware sales down 4% on the previous year. Facebook hasn't provided a specific breakdown of Portal's sales figures, but given this was the first quarter after launch, a decline is not exactly an inspiring signal.
Privacy concerns appear to be playing at least some role in this, which is an element Facebook will have to contend with over time - but as the company has also shown in the past, people are less concerned about privacy when the device/app/tool offers a higher level of utility. Yes, Facebook may be using your personal data for advertising, but everyone's on Facebook. What are you gonna' do, cut yourself off from your social group?
That may be part of the approach Facebook's taking here - if The Social Network can provide a connected TV device which facilitates immediate linkage to a range of digital video providers, its utility could outweigh the privacy issues. Price it cheaply, add in Facebook Watch, along with simple, quality video calling, and a new Facebook video device could be a big winner. Though there are a lot of 'ifs' in that equation.
It's not the first time Facebook has sought to connect directly through to home TV sets.
Back in 2016, Facebook filed a patent for a device which would link your home TV directly to your Facebook account, with notifications appearing on-screen.
At the same time, Facebook also released an updated version of its connected TV app for Xbox and other devices, which has since been re-branded to Facebook Watch.
Given this, it's no surprise to see Facebook once again looking to connect to your TV set. The question is whether it will be worth it - how can Facebook incentivize users to buy a new connected TV device, in addition to those apps and tools they may already have, and make it the go-to provider for such content?
Price is a factor, connectivity is another. It's hard to tell exactly how Facebook could package this as an essential offering, or even one of any significance. And that, given the aforementioned privacy issues, is what Zuck and Co. need to do - Facebook's device will need to be stand out, beyond what else is on offer.
If it can get it right, it could provide a huge boost for Facebook's broader video ambitions. If it can get it right.
We'll keep you updated on any further announcements.