Facebook Watch is expanding, even as it’s failing to gain much traction amongst younger, digital-native audiences. Today, the platform announced it was expanding its 15-sec ads to more than a dozen new countries, as well as launching Watch on desktop globally and on Facebook Lite. The move comes just as Facebook slashed funding for some of its original news shows made in partnership with CNN, Buzzfeed, and ABC News, The Information reported today.
While Facebook’s budget for news content remains at $90 million, the company is reallocating the funds to other programs. The Information also reported that the ad revenue generated from Facebook Watch has fallen below expectations.
In October, Facebook announced it had partnered with MTV to bring back classic reality show The Real World with an international focus, as well as an interactive game show called Confetti for markets in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Recode also reported this afternoon that Facebook is in talks with HBO to sell a subscription to the service that could only be accessed within the mobile app, and most likely via the Watch tab. So Facebook’s priorities seem to be moving more toward novel twists on classic television programming, rather than trying to capitalize on the popularity of digital media brands.
It’s been nearly a year and a half since Facebook Watch first launched, and viewership has naturally been minuscule compared to YouTube, Twitch, and other more mature platforms. That may be a product of poor marketing and awareness. Twelve months in, Facebook Watch was still virtually unknown by 50 percent of US adults, according to a recent survey conducted by Diffusion Group. Facebook hasn’t disclosed unique Watch visitors, and the company instead counts its repeat visitors as separate views. Today, the company said that over 400 million users watch at least one minute of video per month. Contrast that with YouTube’s estimated 1.9 billion monthly active users as of September this year, according to stats from Omnicore.
The news that Facebook will expand ads in more countries and continue to grow Watch on desktop indicates it sees video, especially video tailored to international markets, as a hugely valuable growth opportunity for its sprawling ad empire. The new markets Watch will expand into include China (Hong Kong), India (Bangladesh), South Africa, Taiwan, Italy, Saudi Arabia, among others. The service has also reportedly been in talks with other media companies about approaching the 30 and older demographic, after discovering teens were fleeing Facebook in favor of its younger, hipper sister platform Instagram.