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Facebook Watch: The 6 Most Important Things To Keep Your Eye On

 

1. The Majority of Facebook Users Are Not Millennials.

According to Statista, 52% of U.S. Facebook users are 35 and older. While many of the new shows are, as expected, aimed at a younger demo, a surprisingly large percentage are not: there are shows from Major League Baseball, Billboard, the NBA, National Geographic, NASA, master woodworker Tommy Mac, and the popular TV host Mike Rowe. All of which can and should appeal to an older audience. This is a very smart move on Facebook’s part, as older viewers will be expecting to see a bunch of Millennial-focused content in the video tab and should be pleasantly surprised to see professionally produced sports, music and nature programming from brands they’re quite familiar with. This will go a long way towards getting them to experiment with the Watch tab and checking out what’s on offer.

 

2. Facebook Search Is An Exercise In Masochism.

We’ve all been there. A friend posted an interesting article but you didn’t have time to read it. So you go in and search for “Mark Graham” and Facebook shows you eight Mark Grahams and three Mark Gorhams, none of whom are the Mark Graham you are actually Facebook friends with. We suspect a lot of the same is going to happen with video. So unless Facebook does a major overhaul of their search function, you’re going to have a lot of people searching for “Tommy Mac video series” and walking away frustrated. This includes people who have heard about Tommy Mac from a friend and people who saw one or two Tommy Mac videos and want to see if there are more. Sure the Mighty Algorithm will surface new Tommy Mac videos in their feeds, and probably pop up a red circle notification, but here again—if they don’t have time to watch the video then and there, it’s likely to be gone the next time they open the app. And while there will likely be a way to find it from the video tab, a lot of people are just going to give up and go back to looking at their friends’ vacation photos.

 

3. Midroll Advertising Is A Gamble.

One of the nice things about Facebook video is that it’s ad-free. So I’m curious as to whether viewers are going to be okay with having their short-form videos interrupted by midroll ads. Will they continue watching or will they just click away? Obviously the answer to that rests heavily on how invested they are in the video and how long and how relevant the ads are. One thing Facebook will have to watch for is getting too targeted with their ads. Retargeting (running ads for products the user recently looked at online) almost always comes across as extremely creepy. What’s more, it’s often unnecessary, as the user has already bought the product. Facebook is counting heavily on the ad revenue from video, so how viewers react to the ads and how successful the ads are at driving actions (which Facebook can track) is going to be critical.

 

4. Can Facebook Make Watching Video Additive?

This is the most important question of all. People tend to jump on Facebook in short, serotonin-boosting jolts, often in between other things they’re doing or as a way to take a mini-break. So watching a five-minute video will logically take the place of spending five minutes scrolling through the News Feed. What Facebook needs to do is keep the amount of time users spend in the News Food relatively constant while getting them to make watching video an additional activity, e.g., spend more time on Facebook every day. That’s not going to be as easy as it sounds, as one of the reasons people like Facebook is that it’s so easily snackable and that you can jump on for 45 seconds every time that red notification circle pops up on your phone and then jump off. With the new video tab, Facebook is asking for much more commitment, especially when you factor in that video needs headphones and is far more obvious if, say, you’re at work, than a quick glance at the News Feed.

 

5. The Amateurs Are On Deck.

One of the more puzzling bits of the announcement was that Facebook is planning to let anyone start posting video, throwing down a direct challenge to YouTube. Which is all well and good, but one of the things that seemed likely to set Facebook video apart (in consumers minds anyway) was the fact that it was all professionally produced and curated and thus likely to be watchable, something you can’t really say about most YouTube content. In addition, placing the burden of curation on Facebook seemed to be something users would really like, given that Facebook already curates what they see in their News Feeds. With a manageable amount of content (and an improved interface) viewers could actually browse through Facebook’s video offerings in search of something they might like, as opposed to YouTube, where one more or less wades in, hoping to come up with something of value. It’s a curious move, one I’m hoping they rethink.

 

6. Where’s The Real TV?

Facebook is also allegedly spending millions on long form TV content, thirty minute series with network-level production budgets. These series will have a home on the new app Facebook has said they are launching for Roku, Chromecast and other connected devices. Our question is whether Facebook intends to integrate those series into the new Watch tab. Will they run full episodes? Trailers? Will you be able to “fling” the episodes from the Watch app onto your TV via Chromecast or the new app?

I have much higher hopes for Facebook’s long form series than for their short form efforts, as their ability to monetize those and to market them to the right audiences is unparalleled. If Watch becomes part of their marketing plan for long form, that could help it to take off too. We’ll know soon enough, as the TV app is also due out this fall, but if it succeeds, if could be a strong competitor in the Peak TV arena, up there with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, USA, FX and AMC.


 

Watch is being rolled out slowly—only a few users will have it today. But fast-forward two or three weeks and everyone should have it, at which point I’ll be able to play with it, use it, and offer a revised opinion on what works, what doesn’t and what I’d like to see next.

Until then…

 

Originally published at Decider on