Watch out YouTube – is Facebook set to challenge the titan of video streaming?

Ruth Manielevitch, director of business development EMEA at Taptica, explores the rollout of Facebook Watch and whether the social network can hope to usurp YouTubes throne.

Facebook Watch, Facebook’s TV-style video-streaming service is now officially rolling out worldwide a year after its launch in the United States, making a big play in a saturated market; taking on Google’s YouTube, as well as traditional TV channels and the likes of Netflix, iPlayer and Amazon Video.

But with waning audiences and more competition than ever, how will Facebook Watch differentiate itself from the big players on the market, and what is its offering to advertisers looking to support the platform?

The battle for new content
Facebook is certainly throwing down the gauntlet when it comes to content creation. Reports show it is investing nearly $1bn (£772bn) by the end of the year in original content, and will be broadcasting a plethora of options across genres and formats, including a National Geographic documentary called ‘We’re Wired that Way’, and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s talk show Red Table Talk. What’s more, other broadcasters including Fox News, Buzzfeed and Vice have created content for the service, adding to its wider appeal.

It’s also launching a new feature called Watch Party – a rival to Amazon’s Twitch that allows viewers to watch and interact in real time. This notion of watching TV together and becoming involved in a two-way conversation with other fans is a unique proposition and will arguably increase engagement as fans become involved in polls and challenges whilst watching video.

In a play that directly rivals YouTube, Facebook Watch will also allow content creators (who meet certain metrics) to include advertising breaks; a feature that had previously only been exclusive to certain publishers. This attracts influencers looking to monetise content, and further opens up the options to advertisers looking to target specific audiences.

Facebook is taking a large slice of the pie, with revenue split at 55 per cent to the creator and 45 per cent to the social network platform – matching YouTube’s advertising offering and directly competing with the platform.

TV-style advertising breaks
There are a variety of options for advertisers looking to capitalise on the new content available. The platform will roll out ‘ad breaks’ during shows just like on TV, where brands can pick from pre- and mid-roll advertising, and there are also image adverts that appear beneath the videos.

According to Fidji Simo, the vice-president of product for Facebook, over 70 per cent of mid-roll ads are viewed until the end on Facebook, meaning it offers exciting viewability for marketers.

Video-on-demand (VOD) is a trending topic in the marketing and advertising space, and advertising spend in this category is continuing to rise. A recent report from the IAB revealed that digital video advertising spend among large brands has increased by 53 per cent over the past two years, and this is only set to increase. As a result, the prospect of a new platform such as Facebook Watch with a number of ad options that present strong viewability figures is an exciting opportunity. That said, Facebook has been known to over-egg the engagement figures on the platform, so marketers should approach with caution in the early days.

Disappearing audiences
Despite launching new features, Facebook continues to face ongoing challenges with a waning audience. According to research from SimilarWeb, Facebook’s monthly page visits have reduced from 8.5bn to 4.7bn since 2016, with users instead choosing to spend their time on YouTube. Furthermore, a recent report from eMarketer revealed that two million people under the age of 25 will stop using Facebook this year. Facebook Watch could therefore be seen as Facebook’s latest attempt to regain this lost following.

It is unclear whether Facebook Watch will be enough to sustain its younger audience, yet. However, there will be 500,000 new over-55s expected to join the social networking site. This opens up a market for advertisers targeting this older demographic, who are not normally found on many other social media platforms such as youth-favourites Instagram and Snapchat. Research from Ofcom in 2017 found that around nine in 10 people over the age of 65 opt for a Facebook account, with only one per cent having signed up to Instagram.

The international roll-out of this new platform is ambitious, and handled well, it does have the potential to go the distance. However, Facebook has a long way to go in achieving the standard and offerings on Facebook Watch that YouTube is able to provide its content creators and brands.

Having said that, in the marketing and advertising world, the global launch of Facebook Watch is a welcome addition for advertisers who are focusing on the video-on-demand space. With video rapidly growing to be a very popular format with advertisers, the Facebook Watch platform will service the needs of marketers by increasing the opportunities for brands and advertisers to experiment and target with relevant audiences.

Ruth Manielevitch is director of business development EMEA at Taptica