Facebook Watch expands ad break initiative amid programming rethink

Facebook Watch has extended its ad break initiative in 40 countries and launched via desktop.

The social media giant has revealed that its Watch app is now available on both mobile and desktop globally – a key component in improving the accessibility and ad monetisation of the fledgling video platform.

Meanwhile, its ad breaks function, which inserts ads on three-minute-plus content and launched in five countries in August, has been rolled out across eligible Facebook pages in 40 territories.

Fidji Simo, head of video, said that 2019 will see an expansion in monetisation tools for publishers and creators. “We’ll bring ad breaks to video creators in more countries around the world, and will test new ad breaks placements, like in livestreams from gaming creators.”

“We want to bring our Brand Collabs Manager [a marketplace that helps brands and creators find one another] to more countries to help match brands and creators for sponsorship deals, and will be expanding our fan subscriptions test.”

Simo’s highlights for 2018 include Facebook Watch’s global launch, as well as live LaLiga football matches in Asia and Confetti’s debut in six markets. Facebook has also renewed a raft of originals for second series, including Five Points, Sorry For Your Loss, Sacred Lies and Huda Boss.

“These shows all cultivated deeply engaged fan bases who came for the episodes, but stayed for the conversations – and are a great example of what can happen when content and community come together seamlessly,” said Simo.

The exec highlighted the importance of “personal connections” around original content, signalling a preference for “fan bases [that] are often already well-formed and reachable on the platform.”

“This is the lens we use when funding original series and the advice we give partners looking to create engaging content,” she said, adding that the platform will continue funding originals in 2019 despite checkered success for some titles.

Last month, Facebook’s head of EMEA partnerships Patrick Walker said the platform would roll out a “fewer, bigger, better” strategy around scripted content.

Simo’s comments come as Facebook looks to cut funding for individual news programmes in the US, according to The Information. While its pot of $90m will remain for news-related programming, it is believed that the platform will look to broaden its range of commissioned news content with outlets around the world.

Elsewhere, the business is reportedly in talks to sell subscriptions to cable networks such as HBO, Showtime and Starz, with users then watching the pay-walled content on Facebook itself, according to Recode.

2018 stats

Facebook revealed that more than 400m users spend at least one minute on Watch every month. Each day, more than 75m users spend at least one minute on Watch.

The platform’s most-viewed episode is an episode of Mike Rowe’s Returning The Favour titled “Operation Combat Bikesaver”.

Its most “followed” show and most active Facebook group is the Jada Pinkett-Smith-hosted Red Table Talk while its most commented original is quiz show and HQ Trivia rival Confetti.

Simo highlighted that the platform is working to “unify the video experience” across Facebook.

“Right now, people can find videos on Facebook in a number of different places — Watch, News Feed, Search, Pages and more — and all of these can feel different. We want to make the experience of watching video feel immersive no matter where you discovered it.

“As part of this effort, we’ll be testing a few things in the coming months, like creating a darker background whenever you immerse yourself into a video on mobile, unifying these different viewing experiences under one.”

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