Why Facebook May Be Declaring War on YouTube with Beefed-Up Facebook Watch

Will it get users to "watch" Facebook?


Facebook is opening its arms as a refuge for content creators.

The Mark Zuckerberg-led tech giant is hoping to grab a slice out of the influencer revenue pie with its video venture Facebook Watch, which launched this past August.

Watch is already changing what people see on Facebook, in the newsfeed, and on the new Watch page, which, if you squint, resembles YouTube, but with a Facebook-blue color way. Facebook’s encouraging creators to make content that will help generate advertising revenue, too.

Now that YouTube has scaled back advertising opportunities for its influencer users, it makes sense that Facebook is looking to fill that gap for creators by offering incentives. Furthermore, Facebook is reportedly planning to partner with brands that want to sponsor certain shows as a way to buy ads on the platform.

All of this puts the recently launched Watch in a position to not only harbor the creatives that have been forced off YouTube, but also make money and grow its original content brand.

Watch began in August 2017 as an effort by Facebook to gain a following for long-form episodic shows in the style of YouTube. Some examples of its already launched shows include the popular Comeback Kids and Struggle Meals, a cooking show aimed at helping viewers cook meals for under $2.

Just four months after launching Watch, Facebook announced in December 2017 that commercials will now be allowed before the shows. And for videos that are three or more minutes long, commercials can also be inserted in the middle. Given Facebook’s recent woes of struggling to keep its users on the site, this is a clever way to get people to stay on and watch their favorite shows with commercials.

Basically, Watch is Facebook’s attempt at airing television shows online.

The race to video success is so fierce that Amazon is said to be launching a similar project with advertising partners, in addition to its more traditional TV offerings like Transparent and The Man in the High Castle. The company is hoping to attract creators to use its service for their content.

The move to aggressively push for user engagement comes at a time when Facebook is struggling to do so, according to its latest earnings call.

Facebook’s overall daily active users saw a 14 percent increase, with 1.4 billion on average for December 2017, but the slowdown in time spent on the platform overshadows this accomplishment.

“2017 was a strong year for Facebook, but it was also a hard one,” said Zuckerberg on the call earlier this month. “In 2018, we’re focused on making sure Facebook isn’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s wellbeing and for society. We’re doing this by encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content.”

This eventually led Facebook to make changes within the past quarter “to show fewer viral videos to make sure people’s time is well spent.”

It’s too early to tell whether Watch will achieve Facebook’s goal of attracting creators. One thing is for sure, pushing the Watch venture can be interpreted as the company’s latest attempt to simply get users to stay on it longer.

Disclaimer: Facebook Watch partnered with Inverse for the shows Button Mashers and Big Ideas with Little Kids in 2017.