Facebook Watch, despite promising early viewership, lags behind the competition
- Average viewing time for content on Facebook's newfangled Watch tab for premium video is 23 seconds, according to a study by the social video analytics company Delmondo reported on by Digiday. The study looked at 46 videos on 15 Watch pages, including pages from publishers and video creators being paid by Facebook for the content.
- That 23-second figure surpasses Facebook's self-reported 16.7-second average viewing time for video on its News Feed. Publishers like Attn and Condé Nast also noted their Watch content has higher retention rates than other video programming, Digiday said.
- There's no average retention rate for YouTube videos, Matt Gielen, founder of audience development firm Little Monster Media, told Digiday, but he said a 50% retention is considered "just okay" and video creators should shoot for 60% or higher. The publisher Vox, in one example cited in the report, said that half of its YouTube videos get an average viewing time of four minutes.
It's far too early to tell whether Facebook Watch will be a success or failure — it was only rolled out in August — but early indicators suggest users are dropping in for at least a little while to see what type of programming is available. Delmondo's sample size for its study is also fairly small considering Watch has hundreds of shows already, according to Digiday.
Publishers and creators will need to quickly evolve their Watch content strategies to better accommodate the types of videos people are actually tuning in for. Google's YouTube, which Watch emulates and is clearly trying to put a dent in in terms of ad dollars, has several key advantages in being one of the original dedicated digital video platforms, while Facebook has a number of other tabs that its users are more accustomed to spending their time in.
Beyond beefing up content offerings to keep users engaged on its platform longer, Facebook is hedging its bets on Watch as a new source of advertising revenue as ad load growth on News Feed continues to stagnate. In that regard, Facebook is trying to win over more advertising dollars not only from YouTube but also digital streaming services and even linear TV. Specifically, Facebook wants to monetize publisher's Watch content with mid-roll ads, but for that strategy to become successful, average viewing time will have to increase significantly.
The concept behind the mid-roll format is that the viewer is invested in watching the video and less likely to click away as they are in the case of pre-rolls placed at the start. The user experience with mid-roll replicates the interruptive nature of TV commercials, something that some online viewers are looking to escape.