What Facebook’s ‘Watch’ Will Mean for Brands

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Those of you who've been following Facebook news closely for the past year can only be mildly surprised with the company’s Aug. 9 announcement about Watch, a revamping of its video area designed to enhance video-viewing on the platform. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has been talking about the importance of video since at least 2016. Watch, which will be available initially to a limited group in the U.S. and expanded later, is an extension of Facebook’s earlier forays into video.

Announced in a post from Daniel Danker, Facebook’s director of product, Watch is a platform for viewing what Facebook calls “shows,” although most of us refer to them as videos. What are shows in Facebook’s worldview? “Shows are made up of episodes—live or recorded—and follow a theme or storyline,” Danker writes. The Danker post initially refers to shows in lower case and later switches to Shows.

A differentiator from video-centric sites such as YouTube is that Watch users will be able to chat and comment in real time. “We’ve learned from Facebook Live that people’s comments and reactions to a video are often as much a part of the experience as the video itself. So when you watch a show, you can see comments and connect with friends and other viewers while watching, or participate in a dedicated Facebook Group for the show,” Danker writes.

"By giving brands a platform with video-focused distribution power, Watch will push companies on Facebook to create consistent series with long-form content in order to be featured. This is Facebook’s answer to streaming services, and it may even be a first step toward Facebook Originals, shows that Facebook produces and distributes exclusively,” says Tod Plotkin, principal, Green Buzz Agency.

Adds Elaine Seward, senior video producer/social media coordinator, American Chemical Society, “This is an excellent opportunity for businesses to cultivate and grow their audiences by having a page solely dedicate to video. Businesses will be given the opportunity to become more creative with their content. Promotions now can follow a narrative arc where a character interacts with the brand or product over several episodes, which is more intimate for the audience.”

The use of the word "shows," a term that often refers to what television provides in between commercials, can’t be coincidental. (Really, does the world’s largest social platform do anything by coincidence?) It seems obvious part of Facebook’s intention with Watch is to mimic a traditional goal of television: keep viewers watching as long as possible, something advertisers relish. By the way, Facebook, like television, also relishes advertisers.

An additional way that Facebook is blurring the line between traditional television and online videos—OK, "shows"—is by funding content that includes TV personalities. For example, Danker’s post mentions the series "Returning the Favor." TV’s "Dirty Jobs" star Mike Rowe hosts the video series. In addition, Major League Baseball is broadcasting one game each week live on Facebook. That broadcast (gosh, another television term) also will be featured on Watch, allowing fans to comment with their Facebook friends on the platform.

Watch will be platform-agnostic, available on mobile, desktop and laptop. It also will be “a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work.” Initially it will be limited to a select group of creators, Danker writes, but eventually it will be open to all.

Danker’s post mentions that Watch will feature a host of bells and whistles to enhance the user experience, which is a nice of saying these gadgets will aim to keep viewers glued to Watch. For example, it will include Watchlist (see image), “so you never miss out on the latest episodes” of shows you follow. Watch will be personalized, “to help you discover new shows, organized around what your friends and communities are watching,” Danker writes. A section called Most Talked About will highlight shows that spark conversation. The section called What Friends Are Watching will help users know the shows their Facebook friends are following.

Follow Seth: @skarenstein