Facebook Expands Video Platform Outside The US

A year after its US launch, Facebook Watch comes to the UK and the rest of the world – along with an expanded advertising platform

Facebook is set to launch its Watch streaming video platform this week in the UK and elsewhere, a year after the feature made its debut in the US.

The service competes with video-hosting platforms such as YouTube or Facebook’s own Instagram TV, as well as internet-based television networks along the lines of Netflix, Amazon Video or BBC iPlayer.

The service is set to be “available everywhere” from Thursday, the company said, adding that it is also expanding the platform’s advertising service to include more content creators.

That could prove a significant move in a video advertising market that has long been dominated by Google’s YouTube, with some more recently turning to Amazon’s Twitch as an alternative.

‘Watch Party’

In its first year Facebook’s take on online video has seemingly made little impact on the US’ crowded video landscape, with a survey of US Facebook users finding that 50 percent had never heard of Facebook Watch.

But the company said its service has potential others don’t due to its integration of social features.

Facebook Watch allows users to have two-way conversations about video content with their friends or with the creators themselves, according to Facebook vice president of video Fidji Simo.

The platform includes a Watch Party feature allowing users to coordinate a group show-watching session and an interactivity platform that lets creators run polls, challenges and quizzes to improve engagement with viewers.

“Every month, more than 50 million people in the US come to Watch, and the total time spent has increased 14 times since the start of 2018,” Simo said.

Amazon has created content featuring big names such as Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Olsen and Bear Grylls.

A series called SKAM Austin, based on the Norwegian web series SKAM, has been successful since its launch in April, according to US media, and in July Facebook renewed it for a second season.

Facebook is reportedly planning to spend between $1 billion (£770m) and $2bn over the next year for Facebook Watch content, and media companies including ABC, Fox News, Vice and Buzzfeed also provide content for the service.

The BBC doesn’t create content for Watch, but said it hasn’t ruled out doing so in the future.

Ad shakeup

This week Facebook is also expanding its advertising opportunities on Watch in the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

The expanded features are set to roll out to another 21 countries, including France, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Thailand, in September.

The advert feature, called Ad Breaks, will now have a lower threshhold for allowing creator access, being open to creators of videos at least three minutes in length, with at least 10,000 followers, and which have generated more than 30,000 one-minute views over the past two months.

Facebook is to keep 45 percent of advert revenue, with 55 percent going to creators.