Keep An Eye On Facebook Watch


The race for TV eyeballs and ad revenue is well and truly underway – Netflix is running a huge $20bn credit line to fund their expansive content plans, and Amazon has picked up the rights to stream Thursday Night Football. Between them, those two alone are spending more than $10bn on content annually, and there are plenty of other entrants in a crowded market. On the other side of the coin, it seems there’s a daily announcement of a new SVOD service from one of the established TV giants with Disney’s recent acquisition of BAMTech clearing the way for its move into D2C around their premium animation, movie and sports content.

The latest guest at the OTT party is Facebook which last week wide released its Watch service after initial beta trials and, according to the Wall Street Journal, is gearing up to spend $1bn on original video in the next year. Watch will house all FB’s premium video content in one easy-to-reach tab and - in combination with the launch a few months back of Facebook’s TV app on providers like Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku - is part of Facebook’s big push to grab its share of the $420bn spent worldwide on TV advertising.

Video is the most attractive advertising medium – always has been – and combined with Facebook’s reach, data/targeting ability, and mystery algorithm they have a powerful engine to go after a significant part of this market. Insiders report that Zuckerberg remains focused on a video-centric strategy when it comes to the future of content. With the introduction over the last year of “Live”, and other video-related products expected, it’s clear Facebook sees its future as a video-based network within the next few years. It’s also a signal of intent that it’s gearing up to challenge the other big digital player in ad supported video - Google/YouTube - and could, further down the line, go after market share from the major OTT players as well as traditional TV broadcasters. It’s early days but Facebook has the potential to turn this industry upside-down as it’s done in other verticals. Take a look at this interview with Tom Toumazis at IBC last week talking about Facebook's disruption of the display market and how they're now approaching video.

There are still a lot of question marks about how Facebook’s video strategy will evolve over time – the business model, the type of content, where that content will be consumed - but I think one of the killer questions is how Facebook video is differentiated from the current TV viewing experience. If I had a straight choice as a viewer between watching on a traditional channel, another digital service or Facebook, why would I choose Facebook?

We've done a lot of work with Facebook Live and I believe there are important signposts here to how Facebook can create USPs to attract advertisers. The aspect I really love about Facebook Live is the organic way that audiences participate in that content in real-time, and the ability to reflect and incorporate the user’s content and perspective into the prime video experience. Their opinions and views play into the experience – it really feels like a two-way conversation with your fans and viewers, rather than a one-way broadcast to them. There is no so-called second screen any more, it's all right there in the one viewing experience. Here's a screen grab from something streamed through Telescope's Live Studio platform last week - the HandInHand benefit for those affected by Harvey and Irma. Not only are comments and reactions flying in as George Strait performs, in this case it's all fueling the direct Donate capability within Facebook Live by putting the donor's name "up in lights" as they gift money to the fund. It brings a real feel of community and live audience participation to the event.

Facebook live streaming

This is something Telescope has spent our entire history working towards and it’s only now the technology is really getting there to facilitate this in such a natural way. This in itself is really powerful because the more participation from viewers around a specific piece of content, the more likely it is that content is surfaced and discovered by a wider audience through Facebook’s algorithm.

Currently, just under half of Facebook Live video viewing comes from people discovering it in their news feeds - in other words they didn’t know about this piece of content in advance, they went there because a friend commented/voted/liked/shared, or because the tagging of that content surfaced it to them.

I think this heralds a new dawn in the future of interactive TV, and there are so many possibilities – truly interactive game shows, murder mystery games where you have to solve the puzzle and can enlist your friend network to help you, news programs really able to hold a political debate and take questions right there from the audience.

So instead of 10 studio contestants playing for the win on the latest (taped) gameshow, why not 1m players competing live against each other from home, all in real-time? Dust off your Virtual Reality alter ego and you could be there on the telly yourself - the lucky winner of a spot prize in every question round or walking off with the “last avatar standing” main prize, all from the comfort of your own armchair. Sound preposterous? Just like eGaming did a couple of years ago…

To check out more about Telescope's Live Studio platform, watch this video.

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