If you watch videos on the internet, you’re probably well-acquainted with YouTube.
Google’s easy-to-use, creator-driven platform is practically synonymous with online video. In 2016, viewers watched an astounding one billion hours of content on YouTube per day – certainly not a number to scoff at!
In fact, YouTube is the second most frequently used social network in the US, second only to Facebook. However, recent developments seem to reveal that Facebook is intent on broadening the gap between the two social networks even further.
Enter Facebook Watch – Facebook’s own video-on-demand service, which initially launched in August of 2017.
Up until now, the original content on Watch has been created by outside parties, who have split advertising revenues with Facebook.
Now, Facebook wants to attract individual creators to the platform and allow them to upload their content to the service for free. In turn, these video creators will be compensated with ad revenue shares, similar to how YouTube’s monetization model works.
This sudden push for the service’s reform seems to be, in part, a response to Facebook Watch’s below-average user engagement. However, the development also follows a recent trend of continued YouTube controversy.
Many previously loyal YouTube creators have become frustrated with poor monetization payouts and declining viewership numbers. Advertisers, too, have voiced their concerns with the video service, following the epidemic of ads appearing on offensive video content.
The tumult surrounding the ever-popular video platform has momentarily given Facebook the upper hand – which it seems intent on pursuing. So just how does Facebook plan on dethroning the king of internet video?
Well, here at Yocale, we’re just as curious as you are – so read on to find out!
A New Era Of Social Video
If anyone seems to understand the pertinence of online video in this age of connectivity, it’s Facebook’s co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video,” Zuckerberg mused in an interview with Buzzfeed.
The company has already addressed the recent trend of live social video with their proprietary Facebook Live feature, which launched in early 2016 to great success. However, the rate of Facebook user engagement with longer-form static video content has been on the decline, possibly due to video visibility changes made earlier this year.
It would seem that the company is interested in video – but just not of the viral, disposable variety. In January, Zuckerberg himself announced that the company had reduced the prevalence of viral video on the platform, giving the following explanation:
Our focus in 2018 is making sure Facebook isn’t just fun, but also good for people’s well-being and for society. We’re doing this by encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content.
Zuckerberg may want to limit the amount of disposable video on the platform – but he’s all for shifting the way users engage with meaningful content. Last year, the social network announced Facebook’s Watch tab feature, allowing users to chat and connect with their friends while they watch their favorite shows.
It’s pretty clear that Facebook wants to completely transform the way we interact with television – something that goes entirely against the grain of YouTube’s game plan thus far.
YouTube may have a massive audience and millions of unique videos, but Facebook is interested in the quality of those videos, not quantity – as well as adding in a social twist.
Serve Up Exciting & Exclusive New Content
Facebook doesn’t even come close to having 576,000 hours worth of footage uploaded to its servers every day – that record belongs to YouTube. But, if Facebook intends to overtake YouTube’s share of the market, it will have to entice viewers with engaging content that they can’t watch anywhere else.
And that’s exactly where Facebook’s strategy with Watch lies. Driven by an aggressive purchasing campaign of original content – created by big-time and small-time production teams alike – the company hopes to lure in more viewers than ever before.
To do this, Facebook has been paying top-dollar for original TV shows and reimbursing creators for the expenses required to produce new ones.
In August of 2017, some of the first shows to premiere on Facebook Watch were contributed by companies like Mashable, Business Insider, and NowThisNews. However, the social media giant has its sights aimed much higher.
“At launch, the content we’ve funded will be a small percentage of the shows available in Watch—and over time, this percentage will become even smaller, as more and more publishers share their shows on Facebook,” stated a Facebook spokeswoman.
Appeal To Alienated Advertisers
Part of the controversy surrounding YouTube stems from the company’s decision to host nearly any and all types of videos, barring a few obvious no-nos.
While this content direction allows YouTube to offer an impressive range of diverse and exciting content, it can make advertising on the platform a risky venture.
In March of last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that the ads of big-name brands were running alongside “objectionable” video content that had been uploaded to YouTube. This event sparked a massive media frenzy, leading to large-scale abandonment of the platform by major companies like Walmart, Starbucks, and PepsiCo.
As it turns out, advertisers aren’t too keen on their branding becoming the pre-roll for racy and hateful online video content!
YouTube breadth of video puts them in a precarious position. While the service is home to a vast range of content, YouTube will have to introduce even stricter video vetting to address advertiser concerns.
Facebook, on the other hand, seems to know this – and in dodging this particular pitfall, they’ve garnered significant attention from advertisers, especially those fed-up with YouTube’s recent ad debacle.
Like YouTube, Watch does allow for individual creators to upload their videos for free. However, Facebook seems intent on keeping their upload criteria strict in order to bypass the apprehension of advertisers.
In addition, Facebook has already introduced precautionary features that give advertisers greater control over where their ads appear.
By simply opting out of video content categories such as “gambling,” “mature,” and “tragedy and conflict,” advertisers can pick and choose what content they’d like to advertise on – making Watch an ideal destination for advertisers, especially over YouTube.
A Knack For Speedy Development
Facebook is known for rapid expansion and development. In fact, the company’s engineering mantra has been “move fast with stable infrastructure,” highlighting their commitment to opportunistic development.
And with YouTube, the company seems to see an ample opportunity to overtake their long-time online video competitor.
Brian Boland – VP of product ads at Facebook – previously echoed this company philosophy:
In the past we’ve done more stuff to just ship things quickly and see what happens in the market. Now, instead of just throwing something out there, we’re making sure that we’re getting it right first.
If Facebook plans to overtake YouTube, it will need every advantage it can muster – speed and efficiency included. However, as the company’s history seems to indicate, Zuckerberg and his crew seem ready and willing to step into high-gear.
Many of the company’s latest innovations have been met by widespread adoption – including video sharing and Facebook Live. Live in particular has grown an impressive 400% since it was introduced in 2016.
User Familiarity & Data Collection
As the internet’s largest social network, Facebook has another key advantage over YouTube – it knows its users, and it knows them well.
Facebook’s data collection practices have made news headlines hundreds of times, often stirring the pot of controversy. However, when it comes down to serving up users with relevant, targeted video content – Facebook is ahead of the game.
Sure, YouTube and other similar video services already recommend related content based on the watch history of their users. However, Facebook users have been filling their profiles with their favourite TV shows, movies, and more since what seems like the dawn of time.
It seems very likely that Facebook could utilize stored user media preferences to its advantage – using it to leverage new and original content towards users.
In addition, Facebook has always emphasized the use of “real names” during account creation. While many are quick to defend the anonymity of usernames over real ones, this decision could greatly reduce the number of hateful online interactions taking place within Facebook Watch – something that regularly plagues the comment sections of most YouTube videos and likely discourages advertiser participation.
Both Facebook Watch and YouTube will undoubtedly evolve over the course of the next few years. However, it’s unclear who will be the reigning champion when the dust settles.
After all, the current and broad landscape of video services has proven that there are many niches left to occupy.
That said, one thing is clear. The ensuing fight between Watch and YouTube might not be an even match – but it will be an interesting one.
Thanks for reading!
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