Where is Facebook Watch?

Back to Blog

Where is Facebook Watch?

23 July 2018

Back in late 2016, the founding team at Offscript became a bit obsessed by the notion that episodic online video, with brilliant storytelling at its heart, was the future of advertising. We couldn’t see any other way. TV viewership was shifting dramatically, digital display advertising was becoming ever-more interruptive and branded online video was really, really poor. For brands to cut through, for us, they needed to create something truly engaging that audiences love. We could see a rosy future for both branded experiential and branded video entertainment and, as a result, a rosy future for the audiences that engage with that content. And that is still the vision that drives Offscript.

In the middle of 2017, as we continued to build Offscript’s business model, we started hearing about Facebook Watch. Facebook were going to launch an episodic video platform to help them compete with Netflix and YouTube in the quality video space. It was music to my ears, it felt like a validation of everything that we had been building towards. Surely if Facebook believe in it, to the tune of billions of dollars, then we were right on track with our thinking?

We couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. We’re still waiting.

Watch launched in the States in August 2017. To date, Facebook have been working with traditional TV and news content creators as well as digital publishers like ATTN, Vox and BuzzFeed to generate originated content for the platform. Facebook has been opening its wallets to support the development of both long-form and short-form video for Watch, purportedly looking to spend $1 billion in 2018 on content. Most recently, Facebook have announced a number of local and national news shows that will run within Watch, such as “Full Circle with Anderson Cooper” from CNN 
Content creators can monetize their content through mid-roll ads (Facebook are also looking at introducing pre-roll ads) in a revenue share deal with Facebook. They can also work with brands to create sponsored shows, with the proviso that these shows cannot run ads alongside them. There is, of course, also the option for creators to self-fund content and make further revenue beyond the Watch platform through licencing, merchandising and ad-revenue across other platforms.

Results to date for Watch have been mixed for publishers and content creators. Some have struggled to cover the cost of their productions with ad revenue (with some publishers quoting video CPMs as low as 15 cents) and Facebook still seems to be figuring out how to transition its audience from its News Feed to Watch. And how to keep them there.
However, there finally appears to be some signs of success on the platform as recently reported in Digiday. Facebook have announced that time spent within the Watch platform is up by 900% since the beginning of 2018 and some publishers are taking in “tens of millions of dollars” in mid-roll ad revenue, albeit on hugely trafficked content.

I can see Watch videos being pushed into my News Feed on occasion and, I have to say, I really like the multi-episodic interface Watch offers. There have been other moves by the platforms into longer-form, episodic content (such as Instagram’s IGTV and Snapchat Discover) and our belief in the future of episodic video content has never been stronger.

Our question, however, remains. How long more will we be waiting for Facebook Watch to launch in Ireland and the UK? Direct questions into Facebook yield no clarity. “Mid-2018” seems to be the consensus. Are we not just past mid-2018 now? Where’s Facebook Watch?