Facebook says its video strategy — to encourage its 2 billion-plus users to watch, share and discuss episodic content — is working. The company claims it’s seeing big momentum for Facebook Watch, with original shows like Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk” and “Sorry for Your Loss” starring Elizabeth Olsen. But it’s not doling out enough data to really get a read on how the platform is performing.
Less than two years since its U.S. debut, Facebook Watch has amassed a global daily user base of 140 million, who spend an average of 26 minutes per day watching video, according to the company. That’s nearly double in the past six months, up from 75 million daily users in December who watched 20 minutes daily on average. On a monthly basis, according to Facebook, 720 million people now use Facebook Watch (up 80% from 400 million six months ago).
However, the company isn’t releasing overall watch-time figures, and its reported numbers for daily and monthly Facebook Watch users include everyone who watched a minimum of just 60 seconds of video — which makes it difficult to gauge how well it has built a consistent audience. Also keep in mind the stats aren’t independently verified.
Total time spent with Facebook Watch is growing proportionately with the growth in active users, according to Paresh Rajwat, director of video product management. “It’s a new use case for us, where people are coming with intent to seek videos and sticking around to watch videos,” he said.
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What’s clear is that Facebook remains committed to trying to grow Facebook Watch, and the social giant continues to invest in expanding content on the service. The company has queued up a slate of originals throughout the summer and fall, including the reboot of MTV’s “The Real World,” which bows Thursday (June 13) with versions for the U.S., Mexico and Thailand.
The company also has set premiere dates for upcoming originals. “We want to make sure the audiences know when these shows are coming, so we can starting building communities around them,” said Matthew Henick, Facebook’s head of content planning and strategy.
The summer/fall Facebook Watch lineup includes:
- “Human Discoveries,” July 16: Animated prehistoric comedy starring Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick, alongside Lamorne Morris, Jillian Bell, Paul Scheer and Lisa Kudrow;
- “Five Points” season 2, Aug. 5: Teen drama set at a South Side Chicago high school from executive producers Kerry Washington, Jon Avnet, Rodrigo Garcia, Jake Avnet and Katie Mota;
- “Curse of Akakor,” Aug. 11: docu-series following six investigators searching deep in the Amazon jungle on the search for a lost city;
- “Ball in the Family” season 5, Aug. 18: The latest installment in the reality show about LaVar Ball and his hoops-playing kin, Bunim/Murray Productions;
- “Huda Boss” season 2, Aug. 20: Reality series about Instagram beauty star Huda Kattan and her sister, Mona, who have built cult-beauty brand Huda Beauty;
- “The Birch,” Oct. 11: Thriller centered on the dark relationship between a tree-monster and teen who summons her in a time of crisis, produced by Crypt TV and based on its short of the same name;
- “Sorry for Your Loss” season 2, Oct. 1: Elizabeth Olsen (pictured, above) reprises her role as a young widow trying to piece her life back together, produced by Big Beach and created and executive produced by Kit Steinkellner;
- “Limetown,” Oct. 16: Jessica Biel stars in drama based on the podcast of the same name, following an American Public Radio journalist as she unravels the mystery behind the disappearance of over 300 people at a neuroscience research facility in Tennessee. Cast includes Stanley Tucci, Marlee Matlin, Kelly Jenrette, John Beasley and Louis Ferreira. Biel also executive produces along with her partner and executive producer, Michelle Purple, for their Iron Ocean Productions banner. The series comes from Endeavor Content.
Facebook also is working with media partners to bring original content to Watch. Those include The Players’ Tribune’s “Generations” featuring Megan Rapinoe and Lindsey Horan (June 11); Whistle Sports’ “Globetrotter Gauntlet” with the Harlem Globetrotters (June 24); Tastemade’s “Sundays at Nonna’s” featuring Ian Hecox of Smosh fame (June 30); Studio71’s “Fetch Me a Date” with Jonathan Bennett and Dorothy Wang (Aug. 2); and BuzzFeed’s “Mi Quinceañera Come True” featuring Pero Like (Oct. 5).
In addition, Facebook has cut deals with global publishers in entertainment, news and sports. For example, Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 plans to launch digital-first content on Facebook Watch — the platform’s first pact for European programming — including “The Voice Germany,” “Germany’s Next Top Model – by Heidi Klum,” “Galileo” and “Late Night Berlin.” In addition, Australia’s Seven Studios will launch sports-related shows on Facebook Watch following the country’s National Rugby League, Australian Football League and Cricket Australia. The International Cricket Council will make match previews, highlights, and commentary from every ICC Cricket World Cup match available in Watch.
To boost social engagement tied to shows, Facebook Watch now shows groups adjacent to the videos users are watching. The company also is testing new sections in Watch, including a way to find videos that are popular with friends, and a section dedicated to co-watching experiences like Watch Party, Premieres and Live videos. According to Facebook, users are eight times more likely to comment on videos in a Watch Party than when they’re watching solo.
“The goal is to make video social — it’s not just to watch content,” said Rajwat.
On the monetization front, Facebook said the number of partners using its video Ad Breaks product has more than tripled in the past year. Facebook sells the inventory in Ad Breaks, which is currently available in 40 countries, on behalf of creator partners and shares a split of the revenue.
Over the year, the company says, the number of Pages earning over $1,000 in payouts per month increased eightfold and Pages earning over $10,000 in payouts per month tripled in the last . But again, Facebook isn’t providing context for how many partners overall are participating in Facebook Watch or the ad-breaks program. Henick said “tens of thousands” of media companies and creators are using ad breaks, with “tens of millions” of shows on Facebook Watch worldwide.
This week, Facebook is launching Ad Breaks for partners in Canada and in the next few weeks will roll it out in five new languages: Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, Swedish and Telugu.
Meanwhile, ahead of the 2019 TV upfronts, the company introduced Facebook Showcase, a new premium video-ad program that lets U.S. ad buyers lock in advertising at preset rates and with guaranteed ad impressions for up to a year in advance. Henick declined to quantify what kind of traction Facebook has seen through the program but said, “We are encouraged by our entry into the upfront space.”
Watch the Facebook Watch promo video for the upcoming originals: