I Guess This Isn’t Social Anymore

For anyone who doesn’t live in the US or pay much attention to the Social Media world, it may be news that Facebook has recently rolled out their Facebook Watch offerings worldwide. Having launched in the US in August 2017, the platform has had a slow start with somewhat limited uptake and a few million viewers.

What is Facebook Watch? You could view it as Facebook’s answer to Netflix, although they would like to see themselves as an alternative to Youtube. The Social giant wants the platform to be a place for curated, high quality long form videos — with of course ad breaks in-between. It’s designed to be a place for lean back, put your feet up viewing. Rather than the quick in-feed video views we’re used to on the platform.

In other words, a place for publishers and content giants to share tailored, edited shows rather than tactical and ‘real-time’ content. In an effort to launch the platform in the UK, Facebook has funded a series of shows with some big names, such as Tastemade with their UK show “Feral Cook”. Monetizing these shows with mid-roll ads, which the platform insists won’t turn viewers off.

However, the success of Facebook Watch relies on Facebook’s ability to drive viewership, to make mid-roll ads worth the investment. Currently this isn’t happening. In a survey done by the Diffused Group a year after the US launch, 50% of US adults surveyed said they had never even heard of the platform with only 6% saying they used it daily.

To add to this, brands and publishers can expect a struggle to grow awareness of their Watch content due to the update to Facebook’s algorithm. Leaving branded content at the bottom of the algorithm food chain. Forcing publishers to invest more media spend behind their awareness pieces, before any eyeballs even graze over their Watch content.

Even when you look beyond this, from the stand point of the average Joe, there is no value in watching content on Facebook Watch. Unless the platform manages to secure successful shows that run exclusively on the channel. The fundamental use of Facebook as a Social channel is to catch up with your friends and family. And this just seems to exist in opposition to that.

I can’t remember the last time I went on Facebook for more than 10 minutes, and I don’t know that I would be enticed to do that to watch someone cook food on a used car part (thanks Feral Cook), when I can catch up on Orange is the New Black on my Netflix app.

Facebook Watch is still very new in the UK, and who knows, it may blow up and become the new ‘must watch’ platform. But with the dozens of highly successful streaming platforms out there, this just seems unlikely. We have a suspicion that this may be an attempt by a Social Channel to expand into something it’s just not. But I guess we’ll have to stay tuned.

Chris Falconer