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Week In Review: Facebook Gets Real About Video; Twitter Goes Niche

1. Facebook Gets Real About Video

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was surprisingly frank this week about the challenges facing the giant social network as it moves towards video, echoing something we’ve been saying for quite some time now: the biggest hurdle Facebook will have to overcome with video is that if people are watching TV on Facebook, they’re not looking at their News Feed, and Facebook needs to get them to do both, to expand the amount of time they spend on the platform every day.

Why It Matters

When people spend less time with the News Feed, they spend less time with the dark posts and ads that are Facebook’s bread and butter. That, as Zuckerberg also noted, will reduce the amount of ad revenue Facebook collects, as ad revenue from video will not make up for what’s lost. At least not initially.

What the company needs to do is to grow the amount of time that people spend with Facebook overall, so that video viewing is additive, not a replacement for time already spent.

More details have been coming out about the type of video Facebook is buying, too. It seems they are buying a lot of short form content from niche providers like Nitro Circus, which focuses on extreme sports. And while Nitro Circus may indeed be a “what’s that?” to most people, The Information notes that its Facebook page has roughly three times more “likes” than House of Cards. 

So there’s that, which answers our long-standing question of what sort of content is Facebook going to launch with, as most all available TV content has been spoken for by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

Then there’s the higher-end long-form programming that recent reports have Facebook paying HBO-esque seven-figure-per-episode production costs for.

That’s where things get tricky.

Because while it’s easy to see why Facebook users would happily watch a four-minute video from a niche provider they’re interested in (and then return to the News Feed), it’s a lot harder to see why someone would watch a 30-minute TV show that way. Particularly in the age of binge watching when one episode is never enough.

To that point, Facebook is planning to launch a unique video app for connected TV devices where those high production value shows will live. Essentially another TV network. But getting people to tune into that network won’t be easy. They’ll need to be convinced to download the app to their Roku and then to tune in to watch specific shows.

Facebook does have a built-in marketing system via its News Feed, but that’s going to be successful at getting people to download the app on their phones or tablets. Getting them to download it onto their Roku or Amazon Fire Stick is another story. (Will Amazon even allow it on Fire Stick?)

So there’s that too, and the fact that Facebook is going to need a hit to get people to pay attention to its fledgling TV network. With “peak TV” showing no sign of abating, it’s going to be harder than ever to break through the clutter. Which is not to say they can’t, just that it’s far from a given.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an MVPD, we’d suggest you talk to Facebook about carrying their TV app on your platform. Better to do it now when you’re in the catbird seat than to wait a few years until Facebook TV is popular enough for them to call the shots.

If you’re a network, understand that Facebook is your competitor now. That all that data you’ve been giving them is being used to help make programming decisions and to target their new shows. Just remember the thing about any creative endeavor is that it’s still art, and all the data in the world can’t guarantee you a hit. Just ask Netflix.

If you’re an advertiser, we’d suggest getting in on the ground floor with Facebook. There will be a lot of initial viewing out of curiosity and your ads will stand out given the amount of attention the platform will be getting.

 

2. Twitter Goes Niche

We’re being kind with that headline. Twitter’s U.S. monthly average user numbers were down this past quarter, though the number of daily average users went up. That’s not surprising—call it a “reverse Trump bump” if you will—but if all you hear about Twitter is what the President and various late night talk show hosts are tweeting, chances are you’re going to figure it’s not really a place for the likes of unknown you.

Why It Matters

We’ve been arguing for a while now that Twitter is a broadcast network, not a social network and that it needs to accept that and adjust its interface and business model accordingly.

That call (and we are far from the only ones to make it) has fallen on deaf ears as Twitter tries to reinvent itself as, well, we’re not exactly sure what. They’ve picked up some live sports content that doesn’t get a whole lot of views and they’ve made a half-hearted attempt to cut down on harassment and porn. The amount of hardcore porn that’s available on Twitter is shocking. Especially when you compare it to Facebook and Instagram, which have done an excellent job eliminating X-rated video from their sites. (That’s what a friend told us, anyway…)

So what’s happened is that the shrinking number of people who actually like Twitter are on the platform more, as more Trump-related stories seem to be breaking there, while everyone else waits for their favorite news source to report on what’s being said. (Or they’re looking at the President or Stephen Colbert’s tweets via their browser without actually signing up for or posting on Twitter.)

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a network, pay attention to companies like Canvs, who are reporting emotional responses to tweets about your shows—they can help you to figure out what your audience is responding to on Twitter and the best way to use the platform to reach them.

If you’re an advertiser, think about Twitter as a niche platform and use it to reach news and celebrity junkies, with the understanding that tweets, especially tweets from celebrities and influences, often have reach that extends well beyond Twitter.