Facebook Watch, a YouTube rival, finally comes to the UK
Facebook has finally expanded its video streaming service, Facebook Watch, to a worldwide audience.
The service soft-launched in the US last August to a lukewarm reception. A recent poll found that 50% of surveyed Facebook users had never heard of it, and 24% had heard of it but never used it. In comparison, only 6% users had reported using it daily.
Facebook Watch has many features in common with existing online services. Like Twitch, users can discuss videos with other users as they play; like Snapchat News there’s a front page that prioritises content based on your preferences and views, and it draws upon Netflix with a slew of original content. In addition, relaxed advertising conditions seemed like the perfect lure for YouTube creators growing tired of the ever-changing advertising conditions of that platform.
Unfortunately, it seems that this eclectic mix of features is why Facebook Watch has seen little success — the varying types of content means the platform hasn’t been able to target any specific audience, or prioritise any particular video format.
The service combines typical Facebook videos, such as news, recipes or cutesy pet clips, with original content, including a talk show headed by Jada Pinkett Smith and an upcoming drama show Sorry For Your Loss starring Elizabeth Olsen. Content is tailored to users based on the pages they follow, meaning most users of Facebook Watch will only find videos they’d be seeing on Facebook’s main page anyway.
In classic Facebook style, it will also be organised around what your friends are watching, alongside some gentle theming. For example, a section labelled “What’s Making People Laugh” will make its judgement based on the number of “Haha” emoji reactions, which makes my colleague Tom’s piece from a couple of years ago feel eerily prescient.
The initial announcement from Facebook frequently namechecked the word “community”, suggesting the company is really taking its change of mission statement seriously. “To help inspire creators and seed the ecosystem, we’ve also funded some shows that are examples of community-oriented and episodic video series,” writes Daniel Danker, Facebook’s director of product. “For example, Returning the Favor is a series hosted by Mike Rowe where he finds people doing something extraordinary for their community, tells the world about it, and in turn does something extraordinary for them. Candidates are nominated by Mike’s fans on Facebook.”
It’s possible that with its new global audience, Facebook Watch may start to see improved user figures, or receive more feedback on how to improve. Currently, however, it’s too underwhelming to pose any serious competition — that is, unless Facebook decides to buy its rivals again.