Facebook may have taken a pounding over the last year or so, facing regulatory pressures and attacks over data misuse on its platform, but its ad revenue ambitions are far from muted.

Facebook Watch, the social media giant’s answer to YouTube, is seen as key to future revenue growth, The New York Times reports.

But Facebook seems determined to expand Watch with caution, careful to avoid the advertising hit YouTube took when some advertisers found their messages were running on videos promoting racism and terrorism.

Facebook has carefully curated who gets to show videos on the Watch platform. When it launched in August 2017, Watch was limited to a mere 3,700 Facebook pages. That number has been gradually climbing, and by August this year it was more than 23,000, according to analytics firm OpenSlate. Still, a tiny fraction of the YouTube offering.

Facebook’s revenue now exceeds $40 billion a year, but the company admits growth is set to slow. Attracting a slice of the $60 billion worth of ads that goes into TV has therefore become a key focus.

But Watch appears to be a work in progress as far as advertisers are concerned.

“They need premium, hit, intellectual-property-driven stuff to fuel the idea that this is TV-style content,” Ben Lerer, the chief executive of Group Nine Media, told The Times. “But then they need the volume that comes from News Feed content coming into Watch. That’s a balance that’s really delicate.”

Facebook says more than 75 million people globally spend at least one minute on Watch every day, and average dwell time is 20 minutes.

But George Manas, who leads performance marketing across Omnicom Media Group agencies, told The Times that, while Watch has potential, advertisers were still working out how viewers reacted to ad breaks in social videos.

He added that the agency wants more control over choosing specific videos for clients’ ads.

“The burden of proof is on Facebook’s end to be able to illustrate to people that they are providing a longer-form video experience,” Amanda Grant, GroupM’s United States head of paid social, told The Times.

“There’s a role for the highly produced content, but it’s more of the sizzle, not the steak,” said Mike Henry, the chief executive of OpenSlate. “Success for these guys will come from scale and diversity of content.

“If Facebook gets this right and can generate scale of inventory and scale of audience, they have the opportunity to combine sight, sound and motion with incredible user targeting,” he said. “And that’s the holy grail.”

Sourced from the New York Times; additional content by WARC staff