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Is the Future of Media All About User Experience or Original Content?

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The way that we consume media is changing.  Especially when it comes to TV.  With new mediums available like Facebook Watch, is it still about content?  Or is it more about the platform? Facebook Watch is their response to this change.  It operates as a separate entity.  It went live in September, and it hosts several themed categories like “Today’s Spotlight” and “What Friends are Watching”.  We know that Facebook is going to be producing some original content, but is that enough for Watch to survive?

Watch is personalized to help you discover new shows, organized around what your friends and communities are watching. For example, you’ll find sections like “Most Talked About,” which highlights shows that spark conversation, “What’s Making People Laugh,” which includes shows where many people have used the Haha reaction, and “What Friends Are Watching,” which helps you connect with friends about shows they too are following.

Facebook is getting into the original content business.  It seems like they have to in order to survive, don’t you think? They recently acquired a new project produced by Kerry Washington.  Facebook will develop this new show – Five Points – which is a drama about high-school kids living on the South Side of Chicago.  Washington will executive produce the show alongside Indigenous Media.  The series was created by Adam Giaudrone, and the cast so far includes Hayley Kiyoko and Madison Pettis.

Netflix originally started as a way to provide movies to people.  First through in-mail DVD’s and then as a streaming service.  It was until much later that they got into the business of creating their own content.  And now that’s what they are known for.  Can an organization be successful with a “content first” approach?  Perhaps, but the shift in focus seems to be on user experience. Is content the same thing as user experience?  With Netflix, they started down the path of providing a great user experience, and then they followed with the creative side of things.  And this has made them extremely successful.  Which seems to be the key.

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Can Facebook do the same thing?  One could argue that they don’t necessarily have the platform down just yet.  They are a behemoth when it comes to social networking, but do they have the ability to also become something like Netflix or even YouTube for that matter?  And with more and more tech giants dipping their feet into original content, you can’t exactly blame them.

Watch is Facebook’s biggest attempt to create this kind of experience on their platform.  They want you to visit Facebook more often and spend a longer amount of time on the platform.  And it’s working for them.  Early data suggests that Facebook’s Watch is getting viewers to spend more time watching videos.  But Facebook still has a long way to go to achieve the levels of retention that top video creators and publishers get on other platforms like YouTube.  It’s still early, but an analysis of 46 videos on 15 different Watch pages found that videos averaged 23 seconds in time spent.  Which is greater than the 16.7 seconds that Facebook said its users spend watching a video on the Facebook News Feed, on average.

Maybe Facebook is onto something here.  And perhaps it is because they’re focusing on the platform and not worrying so much about the content.  Although that is important.  The line seems to blur for me in terms of is there a difference between content and user experience?  It seems that one leads to the other, so I don’t know what kind of argument we can make that one is more important than the other in terms of a business model.  Whatever the answer, Facebook Watch already offers hundreds of shows, each with its own page.  What it will grow into remains to be seen.