Yesterday, Facebook announced several video related updates which I believe will have a positive impact for several reasons, and which opens up the question of what role will Facebook have in the future of TV:
- Facebook TV App provides multi-screen insight to advertisers for targeting and attribution: Facebook has stated its TV app will show videos shared by friends or Pages which users have chosen to follow, and also recommended videos, which are likely to include adverts based on interests. The TV app will also allow Facebook Live video to be streamed to the TV. Until now Facebook has provided advertisers and marketers with a view of user behaviours across smartphone, tablet and PC, but not TV. While Facebook enabled iOS and Android users to cast videos from their smartphones to Apple TV and Chromecast enabled screens since October 2016 a dedicated Facebook TV app adds granularity on its users that Facebook has lacked. To be clear, a Facebook TV app will not provide insight into the viewing habits of users outside its application. However, because users will be logged into its TV app Facebook will be able to provide insights on when its users are using the app, the make and model of TV they own, and the IP address of the TV. If there are multiple Facebook users in a household Facebook can correlate users to households, supplementing the location data it gathers from its smartphone users. Of course, the success of the Facebook TV application will be dependent on how many of its users really want to view Facebook video content on their TVs. To boost its chances the Facebook TV applications will be available to download via app stores for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung TV. We also expect further partnerships with smart TV brands, streaming TV devices, and set-top-box makers seeking to add another reason for consumers to select their devices over others.
- Direct ad revenue opportunities: Facebook has become a significant platform for video content distribution and aims to match that in terms of revenue. Video content has helped Facebook improve its engagement levels with users, with our AppOptix data showing that average use has nearly doubled from 25 minutes per day to just under 50 minutes since it introduced autoplay in 2013, while average data consumption has grown 10X to 96 MB per user per day. The more time users spend engaged on Facebook the more valuable advertisers perceive it to be. Facebook also allows advertisers and brands to deliver video ads into newsfeeds to targeted audience segments, which will now also be available via the Facebook TV app, creating additional revenue opportunities.
- Entering the market for longer-form video: In the longer-term the Facebook TV App provides a platform for Facebook to offer longer form video content to users. Facebook has bid for rights to stream Thursday night NFL matches, eventually losing to Twitter. While I expect Facebook to be focused on an ad-supported video business model to fit its current competency, with the scale of its user base it could in future offer a subscription-based movie and TV show service to compete with Netflix or hulu.
- Sound and vertical video to boost mobile video consumption: Including sound into autoplay videos delivered via newsfeed will most certainly add to the impact of video advertising delivered via Facebook newsfeed. I would argue that one of the good things about Facebook is that I can scan through my newsfeed without the sound from video feeds being intrusive, particularly in public places. I now need to go to Facebook settings to turn off instant audio, but I will probably avoid accessing Facebook in public places instead, since I am not a heavy user anyway. I would also argue that knowing if a user has actively tapped on a video to turn on the audio component is a useful metric for advertisers to know, in addition to how long the video was viewed. That said, audio turned on from the start provides an additional hook for users to stay tuned for the video, though I expect Facebook to closely monitor how it impacts smartphone use for any detrimental impact. Optimizing the viewing experience of videos captured in portrait mode would be a welcome enhancement for all users, including advertisers seeking alternatives to landscape.
Whether or not some of these video related announcements will deliver the kind of impact Facebook expects remains to be seen, and also throws up some important questions for the TV and video industry that our video and TV research will address over the coming year. What share of TV and video revenue will Facebook be able to capture? Will its users embrace the Facebook App on TV to anywhere near the scale it needs? Will autoplay video with sound have the kind of positive impact Facebook hopes it will have on driving further video use, or does it risk turning users off? And how will Facebook’s growing presence in video impact YouTube, Netflix, and hulu among others?