Facebook Launches Mid-Roll Video Ad Test, Expands Live-Streaming Ads

Social network also opens Audience Network in-stream video ads to partners' own apps and sites

Courtesy of Facebook

Facebook is making more moves to boost video ad revenue — and carve bucks from marketers’ TV ad budgets.

The social network says it has started testing mid-roll ad breaks in on-demand video on Facebook with a “small number of partners,” while it’s also widening the beta test of ad breaks in Facebook Live video to be available to U.S. users and publishers for broadcasts with 300 or more concurrent viewers. In addition, Facebook is now letting eligible media partners serve in-stream video ads on their own websites and apps through the company’s Audience Network program.

It’s still “early days,” VP of partnerships Nick Grudin said in a statement. But “whether on Facebook or off, we’re committed to continuing to work with our partners to develop new monetization products and ad formats for digital video.”

The ad inventory is sold by Facebook. Facebook’s revenue-sharing program for the video ads, like YouTube’s, offers partners a 55% cut.

The new Ad Breaks feature in on-demand video will let publishers insert short ads (up to 15 seconds long) into videos they upload or into existing videos in their Facebook libraries. Facebook didn’t identify the partners it’s working with on the mid-roll advertising test, but said it will be kicking the tires on the product over the next few months “to analyze, learn and iterate on the early version of this feature.”

Facebook Live video ads, which also may be up to 15 seconds, now will be open to Pages or Profiles in the United States if they have at least 2,000 followers and have hit 300 or more concurrent viewers in a recent live video. The first ad break can occur after broadcasting on Facebook Live for at least four minutes; additional ad breaks are allowed after a minimum of five minutes between each break.

Facebook noted that users who infringe copyrights or violate community standards (e.g., by broadcasting content with violent or sexual images) “may be disqualified from taking ad breaks.” The company declined to say which partners have tested live ads to date. It’s aimed at media companies and creators with large followings, but if enough people are watching, say, your kid’s soccer game you could theoretically serve up Facebook Live ads in the stream.

The introduction of mid-roll ads and expansion of live ads fit into Facebook’s new emphasis on longer-form videos — including original content the company is seeking to license or acquire — along with plans to launch connected-TV apps.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Audience Network video ads have been used to date by publishers including Univision Communications and Collective Press, after it began to implement them last October. Univision, the most-visited Spanish-language website among U.S. Hispanics, has used the Facebook-delivered video ads to complement its direct ad sales across the U.S., Spain, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico.

Facebook claims that Audience Network in-stream video ad partners have seen effective CPMs (cost per thousand views) in the U.S. that are 52 percent higher than with other third-party networks or exchanges.

Pictured above: Mock-up of Facebook Live broadcast showing the option to serve an ad break.