Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 1:08 PM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Yesterday Facebook shed more light on its plans to get users to consume a lot more video, by announcing that it will launch a connected TV app soon for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV, with others to follow. In addition to the blog post, Facebook’s VP of Partnerships Dan Rose was interviewed at Code Media and provided more details on Facebook’s overall video strategy (see video below).
The connected TV app will allow users to watch videos shared by friends or Pages that they follow, live videos and recommended videos. Perhaps the most interesting use case is watching videos that you saved while scrolling your news feed.
Of course the whole idea of a connected TV app being relevant to Facebook users is predicated on the company’s aggressive push into video. In yesterday’s interview, Rose talked at length about the role of the new “video tab” in the Facebook UI which acts as a central repository for live and on-demand videos, augmenting what is seen when scrolling the News Feed.
To accelerate the appeal of videos around 5 minutes long, Facebook is also investing modestly in original video headed up by Ricky Van Veen. However, Rose made clear yesterday that Facebook’s model is very much a revenue share approach with creators. With all these initiatives, Facebook has determined that the News Feed-only user experience is not entirely conducive to optimizing consumption, thus the rollout of video tab, and now the connected TV app.
As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, all of this amounts to a pretty significant reinvention of how Facebook wants users to engage with it going forward. So the looming question is how successful will Facebook be with this transition? The answer is vitally important to Facebook, because all of this is being done in service to one very specific goal: to drive more ad revenue from video, which is the key way Facebook can continue its 50%+ quarterly revenue growth. That ad revenue is most likely to come by shifting TV ad spending.
Interestingly, the most natural way of fueling video ad revenue would be to pursue pre-rolls, which are the industry’s workhorse ad unit and would be accepted in the video tab and connected TV environments especially if highly targeted (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rightly pointed out in the past that pre-rolls would not be appropriate in News Feed). I asked Rose whether pre-rolls were on tap after his interview (see the 26:35 cue point below), but he was noncommittal.
In fact, Rose maintained a cautious tone throughout the interview concerning Facebook’s video moves, clearly trying to manage expectations and emphasize how early a lot of this still is. The whole notion of watching Facebook videos on a connected TV app is obviously completely untested, and in a sense flies counter to YouTube’s strategy which has been to encourage mobile consumption (now over 50% of views) rather than encourage users to watch on TV (though that is available especially with Chromecast).
Bottom line, Facebook is pushing into very new territory as it seeks to evolve from being a mobile-first company to a video-first company as Zuckerberg has repeatedly described its goal. It will be fun to see how all of this unfolds this year.