- Facebook is struggling to drive users to its Watch tab for premium video content that rolled out in August, according to a report in Ad Age citing unnamed publisher sources.
- One source speaking on conditions of anonymity to Ad Age said that most views on Watch content are driven from News Feed, a feature that doesn't foster the high-engagement viewing Facebook wants. Facebook is now taking a number of steps to change how it handles Watch, including possibly increasing the ad revenue that creators receive from the current 55% share. It will also test letting partners sell their own ad inventory, a move that might draw more high-profile media companies and studios to Watch, per Ad Age.
- Last week, Facebook announced that shows from creators and publishers that see repeat views over time will be rewarded in Watch's Discover feed. Another, unnamed executive speaking to Ad Age said that Facebook has essentially "thrown out" its initial approach to how video was pitched and developed for the tab.
It's still early days for Watch, and tweaks were always to be expected, but the latest news does not show positive signs for a feature that Facebook is hoping to become a fresh revenue driver as ad load growth on News Feed continues to stagnate. Most views coming in from News Feed and not from the content hub itself speaks the difficulties social platforms have in driving interest to new features that exist outside of the interface users are accustomed to. As Ad Age pointed out, this trend also suggests that people are potentially simply scrolling by Watch series rather than truly tuning in and engaging for a show's entire runtime, which was the whole concept behind the tab in the first place.
But again, it's still early days, and Facebook is already tinkering with how it handles Watch in ways that might be appealing to both brands and publishers. A greater split of revenue and degree of control over how ad inventory is handled opens a level of access publishers sometimes struggle to achieve on digital platforms like Facebook. Earlier this month, the company also announced it would begin testing pre-roll video ads on Watch, a format CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously resisted under the belief that it can create a poor user experience that's not compatible with features like News Feed. Facebook's current struggle is balancing a growing need to better monetize video content while making sure ads are unobtrusive to its some 2 billion users.
Another previously-known issue plaguing Watch is low engagement rates for those who do choose to click on content. An October study by the video analytics company Delmondo found the average viewing time for Watch video was only 23 seconds. That figure exceeds Facebook's self-reported 16.7-second average viewing time for video on News Feed but it's nothing close to a YouTube competitor yet.