This is according to CNBC, which reports that the product, which launched in the US August 2017, is not thriving and is being largely ignored by media buyers.
A move into the expansive digital video advertising market is crucial for Facebook’s future growth, Mark Zuckerberg told investors in October. “Video is a critical part of the future. It’s what our community wants as long as we can make it social, and I think will end up being a large part of our business as well.”
The company has, according to Variety, ploughed as much as $1bn into original content for the Watch platform. So far, it has drawn as many as 50 million US users each month, the company said in August, though that hardly scratches the surface of rival YouTube’s 1.8 billion logged-in monthly users worldwide. According to comments made to CNBC, the company has admitted to publishers that it has struggled to make users familiar with the Watch brand.
It is well known that the platform overall is struggling to attract younger and teen users. Hootsuite data reported by WARC found that as many as 10 million 13-17 year-olds have deserted the platform between January and April 2018. This was, however, more than offset by growth among older users.
Mindful of this demographic reality, Facebook has hinted that it wants its Watch shows to cater to the post-college millennial, meaning those now of parenting age and older.
One company told CNBC that Facebook’s interest in talent hints at this shift, as the company has pushed for shows with established stars rather than social media influencers. Two of its shows feature heavyweight stars from the world of US showbiz, including Jada Pinkett Smith and Catherine-Zeta Jones. Elsewhere, Facebook is bringing back MTV’s The Real World, one of the first reality TV series which first aired in 1992.
But the struggle has been to pull people (and the advertisers that seek them) away from the news feed. “We see Watch and News Feed serving complementary purposes, so it makes sense that video consumption and discovery are happening in both places,” Matthew Henick, Facebook head of content strategy and planning, said in a statement. But other commentators have noted the massive shift in user behaviour that it assumes it will pull off.
An alternative view is that Facebook is also offering conflicting advice to advertisers, with the recommendation that content under 15 seconds is the future at odds with the pitch for a long-form content and advertising proposition.
As Adam Levy of Motley Fool noted in August, part of Facebook’s problem might be that it’s aiming at competing directly with YouTube, rather than offering something completely different. “Watch needs to be an alternative to YouTube, a destination for video that offers something different,” he said. “Facebook started by trying to mimic YouTube, but it’s starting to find a new angle to take advantage of its massive built-in user base.”
Sourced from CNBC, Seeking Alpha, Variety, The Verge, Motley Fool; additional content by WARC staff