In­ter­view

Face­book has re­vamped its video of­fer­ing, cre­at­ing a new hub for shows called Watch. Cur­rently only avail­able in the US, it is be­ing tested ahead of an ex­pected global roll­out

ArabAd - - CONTENTS - Lon­don, by Iain Ak­er­man

Daniel Danker of Face­book

Daniel Danker, the man who over­saw the global roll­out of Face­book Live last year, is sit­ting in a fea­ture­less meet­ing room at the com­pany’s of­fices in Fitzrovia, Lon­don. On the agenda is Watch, the so­cial me­dia gi­ant’s new video con­tent plat­form.

Although no date has been set for a Mid­dle East launch, its im­pli­ca­tions for the re­gion, and par­tic­u­larly Saudi Ara­bia, where on­line video is con­sumed at global lead­ing lev­els, could be huge.

“We see in Saudi Ara­bia and else­where in the Mid­dle East that there are a lot of creators that are very suc­cess­ful on Face­book, and a lot of me­dia com­pa­nies that are do­ing very well in dig­i­tal plat­forms, so I think that’s pretty ex­cit­ing,” says Danker, di­rec­tor of prod­uct at Face­book. “It will also be re­ally in­ter­est­ing to see how we can cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment for lo­cal con­tent to be re­ally suc­cess­ful.”

For now, how­ever, the fo­cus is on the US, where Watch was launched to all users at the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber. Hous­ing orig­i­nal shows pro­duced by the likes of Hu­mans of New York, Re­fin­ery29, In­sider and Buz­zfeed, it is avail­able through a new tab on the Face­book mo­bile app, as well as via con­nected TV apps and lap­tops.

Ini­tially work­ing with only a se­lect num­ber of pub­lish­ers, “ul­ti­mately we will open it up wider,” says Danker. “But we’re start­ing nar­rower, just to make sure the ecosys­tem works.”

“What we’ve been see­ing is, as video time is grow­ing, peo­ple ac­tu­ally come to Face­book with the in­tent to watch video,” ex­plains Danker. “And so Watch is our next step in the jour­ney in sat­is­fy­ing that need, that de­sire.

“We’re start­ing in the US, just to see how the prod­uct is re­ceived. First, we want to make sure that creators and pub­lish­ers are find­ing suc­cess. For them to be suc­cess­ful they want to re­ally reach a ded­i­cated, loyal au­di­ence. That’s what’s unique about Watch. Be­cause these are shows, and be­cause of the ‘watch­list’ fea­ture, you can keep peo­ple com­ing back. So we want to see that that ef­fect is work­ing for creators and pub­lish­ers.

“But we also want to see that it’s work­ing for view­ers, of course, and that peo­ple are re­ally en­gag­ing with these shows be­yond what they nor­mally would through news­feed. That’s go­ing to be a process that takes some time. There’s the cre­ation process and the con­sump­tion process. So we want to see that re­ally take hold.”

Some pub­lish­ers be­lieve Watch has al­ready had a no­tice­able im­pact. For ex­am­ple, Ben Lerer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Group Nine Me­dia, which owns Thril­list, Now This and The Dodo, told an Ad­ver­tis­ing Week panel in late-septem­ber that “we’ve done well over 100 mil­lion video views and 100 mil­lion min­utes of view­ing, which is

Be­cause Watch is a plat­form, it is suc­cess­ful when creators and pub­lish­ers around the world de­cide to make shows.

im­por­tant. So peo­ple are stay­ing for longer”. The com­pany launched 24 shows when Watch went live in the US, ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent styles, gen­res and run­ning times.

Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion will be key. Video lengths will vary, but most are likely to be short-form rather than long-form. Hu­mans of New York, for ex­am­ple, has turned Bran­don Stan­ton’s pho­tog­ra­phy se­ries into short vi­gnettes of roughly two min­utes, with those vi­gnettes also col­lated into longer 15 to 25-minute shows.

“We think the kind of con­tent that will work best is the kind of con­tent that does two things,” says Danker. “One, taps into com­mu­nity, be­cause that’s what causes video to be suc­cess­ful on Face­book. That’s what causes it to be distributed and shared. The sec­ond is that we recog­nise that most of the view­er­ship will hap­pen on a mo­bile phone. So, we can see that the kinds of

videos that are likely to be suc­cess­ful are ones that are shorter. We es­ti­mate in the 10 to 15-minute range per episode, although we’ve seen Nas Daily do a daily one-minute video.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Wall Street Jour­nal, Face­book is re­ported to be spend­ing as much as $1 bil­lion fund­ing orig­i­nal con­tent for Watch, sug­gest­ing it is seek­ing to com­pete with the likes of Net­flix, Youtube and Ama­zon.

“I think of it a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently,” re­sponds Danker. “Be­cause Watch is a plat­form, it is suc­cess­ful when creators and pub­lish­ers around the world de­cide to make shows.

“We want to seed that ecosys­tem by start­ing with a num­ber of shows that we’re help­ing to fund our­selves. They’re cre­ated by pub­lish­ers we’ve been work­ing with and es­sen­tially the goal be­hind us seed­ing that ecosys­tem is to find out whether there is this pow­er­ful con­nec­tion be­tween com­mu­nity and con­tent and au­di­ences. We be­lieve that com­mu­nity is so im­por­tant to con­tent that it can re­ally bring a new con­nec­tion to life.”

Danker cites Re­turn­ing the Favour, hosted by Mike Rowe, as an ex­am­ple – a se­ries that cel­e­brates peo­ple who have done some­thing spe­cial for their com­mu­nity by do­ing some­thing spe­cial for them.

Rather than charge sub­scrip­tions as Net­flix and Ama­zon do, Face­book is once again tar­get­ing ad­ver­tis­ing dol­lars, with pub­lish­ers able to in­sert ad breaks at any given point in a show. The pub­lisher then takes 55 per cent of the rev­enue, Face­book the re­main­der.

“The key when it comes to ad­ver­tis­ing is that, for pub­lish­ers to be suc­cess­ful on Watch they need to be able to reach a loyal au­di­ence, which is part of how Watch is built; they need to be able to mon­e­tise so that they can con­tinue their craft; and peo­ple need to en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Danker.

“So, as we’re test­ing, what we’re watch­ing for is, how do we make sure that the ad­ver­tis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is one that view­ers find en­joy­able in the con­text of the shows that they’re watch­ing, and that it bal­ances the pub­lish­ers’ needs to gen­er­ate the rev­enue that they need to make their shows? What is the right mo­ment in shows to in­sert ads? How fre­quent should those ads be? How long should they be? That’s what we’re learn­ing about now.”

Face­book’s new video ser­vice is called ‘Watch’

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