Facebook Watch is to expand Paid Online Events into 24 markets, including Hong Kong, in the coming weeks following an exponential growth in viewership amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Saurabh Doshi, Facebook’s head of entertainment partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region, announced the social media giant’s plans at Hong Kong FilMart on Monday.

Paid Online Events allows users to limit access and content distribution to those who have registered to the event, positioning the service somewhere between Vimeo and Zoom. Paid Online Events was only rolled out in beta form last year.

Facebook, which has 2.79 billion users around the world, is also making In-stream Ads available to content creators who have met the platform’s criteria, so that they can monetize their live-streamed content by inserting ads, Doshi explained.

Creators and media platforms that have streamed their content on the social media giant’s video platform saw a significant increase in their viewership as well as advertising revenues, said Doshi.

Facebook Watch, which was launched in 2018, now has more than 1.25 billion views each month, Doshi said, adding that half a billion of them come from Southeast Asia. One in four users has created and uploaded videos on social media because of the pandemic, he said, with a large proportion in the 25 to 34 year age group. The percentage hit 66% in Southeast Asia during the first half of 2020.

Analytics showed that eight out of 10 users watch videos on social media, with 800 million daily active users on Facebook and Instagram live, Doshi said. Facebook has already carried 10 billion broadcasts since the live function was launched in 2015.

Content providers that have streamed events live achieved high viewership, he said. Taiwan’s Golden Bell Awards, which screened its red carpet, awards show and behind the scene interviews, achieved more than 1.6 million views. Taiwanese actress Alice Ko, who partnered with Facebook Watch to follow her throughout the awards night from getting make-up done to her celebration of winning the best actress award, garnered more than 1 million views.

Repurposing content from archives became a way to boost advertising revenue, Doshi said, citing the success of Multimedia JSC. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company re-edited archival footage of reality show “Vietnam’s Next Top Model” and made previously unseen footage available via Facebook Watch. It achieved 35 million views and a 2,000% increase in advertising revenue to $60,000 per month. Thailand’s Channel 8 also successfully monetized one-minute clips re-edited from existing content, he added.

“Video watching is not a passive experience, but about interacting and sharing your experience with others,” said Doshi.