Should Facebook Watch Be Part of Your TV Buy?

Humans of New York, Episode 1 on Facebook Watch.

Good news, marketers: Facebook Watch is already a lot like TV.

by Todd Lombardo

I often get into arguments about what it means to “watch TV.” The argument goes:

Big-screen, long-form viewing is a lean back experience, chilling at home. Small-screen viewing is short-form videos; an active, lean forward experience on the go. They are not really competing with each other.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe tech hasn’t caught up to changing behaviors yet. Regardless, now there’s another original content contender throwing its hat into the ring.

Hello, Facebook Watch.

Watch is a combination of short- and long-form original video series. I found a 3-minute sci-fi short film called Lost Memories. The first episode of Humans of New York has 4 million+ views. The Dave Ramsey show clocks in at 3 hours long.

There are old school players (Good Morning America), new school (ATTN:), and everything in between.

This is Zuckerberg’s take from August 9.

Facebook Watch home page.

Facebook Watch is sort of like the love child of a Netflix and YouTube UI. There are lots of videos in the featured carousel, Today’s Spotlight, Popular Now, and some other expected ways to organize.

If you were to ask me where to start watching, I couldn’t tell you.

I watched Facebook Watch. I saw no ads.

I watched the following episodes on Facebook Watch:

— 1 episode of Celebrity Animal Encounters (7 minutes)

— 1 episode of Humans of New York (22 minutes)

— 1 episode of Apocalypse NowThis (8 minutes)

— 1 episode of Virtually Dating from The Scene (8 minutes)

— 1 episode of She Used To Be A Man from Nas Daily (1 minute)

I was not served any pre-roll or mid-roll ads. I was not served any suggested videos or overlays. Just a straight content viewing experience. So right now, Facebook Watch doesn’t appear to be running ads to a laptop viewer in Los Angeles.

Not a surprise. Build the audience first. And sponsored shows are reportedly coming.

Truth: Facebook’s News Feed is running out of space for ads. So Facebook needs a new way to grow ad revenue. And video monetizes at a premium vs. other forms of advertising. And, original content is a way to differentiate.

NBC, CBS, ABC…Facebook?

Last year, my colleague Christian Jacobsen and I wrote an article in Campaign titled “It’s Time We Started Treating Facebook Like a Grown-up.” Facebook Watch is the newest proofpoint that indicates Facebook thinks of itself as much more than just a social network.

Good news, marketers. Facebook Watch is TV.

When monetization comes, Facebook Watch can’t stay in your social bucket, nor just be part of your digital media buys, or in an “oh, just boost our posts” mentality.

Facebook Watch is very much like TV. Digiday thinks so, too. Watch is organized as episodes of varying lengths for lean back and lean forward viewing, many from familiar media companies. This is good news for marketers, because Facebook Watch should fit into an existing TV buying paradigm already.

I’m anticipating the day (soon) when Facebook Watch rolls out ad pods to viewers like me. That would feel a lot like linear TV. In my News Feed, I started seeing mid-roll a few months back. As Variety recently reported, Facebook is now letting buyers purchase in-stream ads separately from the News Feed.

And Variety is also on the “It’s like TV” bandwagon:

“Facebook is making it easier to buy TV-style ads, as it looks to bump up TV-style content on the platform.”

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook Watch is framed in the context of reach and frequency — a la digital GRPs — to TV buyers, reinvented for our Modern Media Culture.

There’s more.

Here are six other reasons why I think Facebook Watch should be part of a broadcast buy consideration set:

  1. Scale: Facebook has 2 billion monthly active users around the globe. If TV is scale, Facebook is also scale. Facebook also crushes every other video service — even YouTube with its 1.5 billion active users.
  2. Targeting: Facebook’s targeting capabilities are miles ahead of most anything linear TV can do (save addressable TV, which deserves its own article).
  3. Branded content: Facebook will likely offer branded content services (I would). Content partners are already talking about it. With built-in audience development on Watch, it’s a likely win.
  4. Mobile: Facebook Watch is undoubtedly designed for mobile viewing.
  5. Brand-safe: Facebook Watch is by definition a brand-safe viewing experience. No YouTube terrorist videos for miles, with an asterisk next to this sentence later if user-generated content comes into play.
  6. Processes: TV buyers already have the mindset of “thinking like TV.” They are paid to be strategic about this type of buy, know how to talk the talk, and hold billion dollar purse strings. Facebook knows this. Now, how to play in Upfronts…

I’m all in on Facebook Watch, just like I’m all in on most of the stuff Amazon does. Mark Zuckerberg, like Jeff Bezos, tends to pursue things until he gets them right. It was just a few years ago that Facebook wasn’t in video at all.

Watch for more from Facebook Watch. Also watch the rollout of YouTube TV, which is now in 50% of the U.S. Count on more Oscars for Amazon. And pay attention to all the product placement happening over on Netflix.

For TV buyers, no time like the present — and future.

Todd Lombardo is a Digital Strategist and Editor at Mistress.