153 million views and counting. Chances are you’ve seen “Chewbacca Mom” by now, Facebook’s most successful live video to date. And if you haven’t seen that particular video, chances are you’ve watched video (live or not) on Facebook recently; as of January 2016, 100 million hours of video are watched on the platform every day. Videos range from low-quality and user-generated to highly produced news stories, and it’s not crazy to think that TV shows will be the next videos to fight for your attention on Facebook.
1. Instant Articles. Publishers like The NY Times and BuzzFeed have already made the move to publish articles within the walls of Facebook with Instant Articles. This strategy has been a success, resulting in more shares and engagement for publishers. Consumers are less likely to abandon trying to read an article because of the faster load times with Instant Articles, and more people are likely to see the articles than if they had to navigate to the publisher’s website. A logical next step would be for Facebook to move beyond working just with publishers and host video content in a similar capacity.
2. The growth of digital series. Brands like the National Geographic Channel are already testing “digital series” on Instagram and Facebook. While these digital series are often shorter in length and considered a lead-in marketing effort to the “real” content on TV, brands are already heavily using Facebook to promote content. But if the viewers can already be found on social channels, why not put the “real” content on them?
3. The NFL. Twitter recently acquired the rights to stream Thursday night NFL games, showing a clear path forward for TV shows to migrate to social channels. The games will have a similar ad load to if a viewer was watching the game on TV, and it’s a test to see if replicating the current TV format and structure can work on social channels. (also, see above, re: putting “real” content on social channels. It’s happening)
1. Nielsen ratings. Ad dollars. Status quo. Treating Facebook as a TV hub similar to a service like Netflix or Hulu is a departure from the industry standard, with ratings and ad dollars being a big hurdle to the transition. But Nielsen has recently started tracking viewership on digital streaming services, and while it’s not fully comprehensive yet (lacking mobile viewership), it’s opened the door to consideration for non-traditional sources to be included. Which also begs the question, who cares if it’s the old industry standard? If viewers are watching TV shows live or on-demand on Facebook, they don’t have any more of an increased propensity to skip ads than if they were watching on Hulu or Netflix. And if content providers can get more eyeballs on their shows by putting it in more places, isn’t that a good thing? More eyeballs = more revenue.
2. Attention spans, especially on mobile devices. True, short-form content is king on social channels right now, but consumers have shown they’re willing to not just watch, but binge-watch long-form content on mobile devices and their desktops. The shift that will need to happen is perception- rather than Facebook being a place to check status updates and watch one minute Tasty videos, consumers will need to adopt the habit of watching TV shows in a new destination. But that’s where the success of Instant Articles offers important learnings; Facebook has already proven that because it’s a platform where consumers already spend an (inordinate) amount of their day, embracing new ways to consume content isn’t an incredibly hard battle.
1. Data + Targeting! Hosting TV shows on Facebook would allow content providers to learn an incredible amount of information about their audiences. Rather than know how many households or people aged 18-49 tuned-in to a show, the level of detail about audiences could be much more refined. This would allow for content providers to fine-tune their promotions to reach specific audiences, as well as retarget viewers around the web.
2. Bigger audience potential. This is especially true for critically acclaimed, but low rated shows, or new shows trying to find an audience amongst the clutter. These shows could benefit from Facebook’s algorithm, and the potential to reach consumers who may be likely to watch based on their interests, but may not have found the show on another platform.
Granted, the why not’s are pretty strong given the entrenched establishment that is the television industry. But it’s an interesting space to watch– I’d be surprised if Discovery didn’t experiment in some way with Shark Week on Facebook later this summer, especially given how Facebook Live allows fans to interact with content… and viewers LOVE talking about Shark Week. I think it’s only a matter of time before we start treating Facebook like a new hub for television.