How Facebook Watch is changing the creator-viewer relationship, attracting advertisers, and producing high-quality content

Each ‘superpower’ battling in the ‘streaming wars’ has three things: big names, bigger budgets, and award-winning content. These are table stakes. What they also share in common is that, for the most part, their relationship with the viewer is one way. Media company produces content, viewer sits and watches. If Facebook Watch stands out in one crucial way it’s that the platform – via features like comments, reactions, polls, Watch Parties, and other interactive elements – is making streaming video an active and engaging experience. And users are responding: Watch launched globally a year ago and more than 720 million people monthly spend at least one minute in Watch. Daily visitors are spending on average more than 26 minutes in Watch every day.

For advertisers looking to reach audiences at scale and especially the key 18 to 34 demographic, there may be no better video or over the top streaming platform. 43 percent of In-Stream Reserve viewers are within this age range, compared to 29 percent of the TV population. For publishers seeking to maximize revenue, ad breaks are so far available in more than 40 countries, and in the past year the number of Pages earning more than $1,000 in payouts per month has increased eightfold.

On the content front, Facebook has invested heavily in quality Originals. Facebook could more easily surface video content to its massive user base with product updates but understands that drawing audiences more organically with quality content is a superior approach.

Red Table Talk – a daytime talk show featuring Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter, Willow, and her mother, Adrienne – was nominated for a Daytime Emmy and won a NAACP award for Outstanding Hosts. An episode premiering in March featuring guest Jordyn Woods broke the record for the most-viewed Facebook Original episode in the first 24 hours. Other Originals like Sorry For Your Loss (named one of the best shows of 2018 by The New York Times), Tom vs Time (won a Sports Emmy) 9 Months with Courteney Cox (Critics’ Choice nomination), and Limetown, (premiered at Toronto International Film Festival last week), have garnered critical acclaim.

For more on Watch, its appeal, and how it benefits both advertisers and creators, we spoke with Matthew Henick, Head of Content Strategy and Planning, Facebook:

Found Remote: How is Facebook Watch bringing active social engagement to the more passive experience of viewing video content?

Matthew Henick: We want to make all stages of video more socially-powered: discovering, watching and conversing. Surfacing your friends’ and family’s comments, shares and reactions in Watch feed provides a powerful way to find new videos to watch. With our Watch Parties product, people can now watch any type of video together with their friends, families or even strangers. No matter the medium, we know that people love to talk about what they watch after the fact and that’s where we’ve really seen Groups and our messaging apps thrive.

FR: How have people been responding to Watch since launch? What had stood out?

Henick: We launched Watch globally about a year ago, and there are now more than 720 million people monthly and 140 million people daily who spend at least one minute in Watch. And we’re seeing that, on average, daily visitors spend more than 26 minutes in Watch every day. 

One of the really exciting and inspiring things we’ve seen in Watch has been the communities and fandoms that have formed around the content. We’ve seen grief communities console each other in the Sorry For Your Loss Facebook Group; nonprofits crush their goals after being profiled on Returning The Favor; and of course, we’re seeing Red Table Talk break boundaries and spur conversations around real topics. One recent episode with Jordyn Woods on Red Table Talk, pierced through popular culture and broke Watch viewership records. Not to mention our docu-series, Tom vs Time, recently won a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Serialized Sports Documentary.

We’ve also seen people love the content coming from partnerships between some of today’s most popular and prolific digital publishers and creators including, Tasty’s Edible History featuring Hannah Hart; Glamour’s Queen Pinswith Keke Palmer; and Studio71’s Fetch Me A Date with Jonathan Bennett and Dorothy Wang.

FR: What drives the decision making behind what type of original content to produce and showcase?

Henick: With Originals, we aim to create content that people love and that encourages conversations and connections. With unscripted, Red Table Talk has completely revolutionized the idea of a talk show. Through the weekly episodes and beyond, fans carry on conversations within the official Facebook Group, many of these conversations led to some of the topics being discussed by Jada, Willow and Gammy on the show. We have even seen spinoff groups be created both on Facebook and in real life meet-ups.

We’re bringing in audiences closer and letting them be part of the action. For example, with MTV’s The Real World, fans used our polling tools to vote on the final roommate in each house, and in Returning the Favor, the official Facebook Group nominates many of the honorees featured in episodes. Our scripted shows draw audiences in through fictional stories — from relatable character storylines, to topical conversations and themes that spur intrigue.  

FR: How does Watch benefit creators?

Henick: Creators build some of the strongest communities on Facebook. As Watch continues to grow, many creators are developing loyal followings in Watch with highly engaged fans who are seeking out their content and coming back for more. Creators are now able to interact with their audience in much deeper ways through Groups, Fan Badges, Stories and a tighter integration with Instagram. 

We think it’s important that creators have multiple ways to build the business that best suits their content and their audience. We are super proud to provide products to make money through ads, subscriptions, merchandise and for our gaming creators, tipping.

FR: Why is Watch a great place for brands and advertisers to be?

Henick: In a landscape where it is increasingly difficult to reach younger-skewing audiences on traditional channels, advertisers are searching for new surfaces to connect with this coveted community. With In-Stream Reserve, Facebook’s premium video ad offering for Facebook Watch, advertisers can reach people watching video from a selection of the most engaging, highest quality publishers and creators. And with In-Stream reserve, advertisers are finding success connecting with this younger-skewing audience: 43 percent of In-Stream Reserve viewers are 18-34, compared to 29 percent of the TV universe. This makes Watch an extremely appealing platform for connecting with younger audiences where they are spending their time.

In addition, we know how important brand safety is to the more traditional advertiser audience and we’ve built our premium video ad offering on Watch with this in mind. For example, In-Stream Reserve is a curated selection of publishers and creators, and all videos included within the offering go through human review before an ad is served.

Finally, earlier this year we announced Showcase, our first upfront offering for advertisers that traditionally participate in the upfront-TV buying cycle. With Showcase, we’ve made it easy to plan, buy and measure video ad campaigns targeted at age 18+ audiences, using the same processes that premium video and TV ad buyers are familiar with. Advertisers can reserve inventory upfront, at a fixed price, guaranteed against Nielsen demographics, delivered with managed service from Facebook.

Adam Flomenbaum

The new Found Remote