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Facebook Primes Watch for Video Explosion in IBC Keynote
The social network pitches its new video service as the community-based OTT platform broadcasters have been waiting for.

Facebook is intent on capitalising on exploding video views across its network by experimenting with content that fits its community-based engagement model.

The social network is funding a range of content on its new service Facebook Watch and wants to work with content creators, brands, and broadcasters to learn what best works, explained Daniel Danker, product director at Facebook, delivering the IBC 2017 keynote address. The is similar to the way the company developed Facebook Live.

“Facebook’s viewing behaviour is essentially community driven," Danker said. "We know people experience video through community—they watch with friends, they share and discover video through that community. Video is community-centric.”

Danker refused to comment on when Facebook Watch, which launched in the U.S. a couple of weeks ago, will rollout in Europe.

“We need to see how it’s working in the U.S. Probably we didn’t get it exactly right at first so we need to learn about it from creators and publishers before we bring it to the rest of the world," Danker said. “We are seeding the ecosystem where we think content and community can come together by funding a number of shows that will help us explore that relationship.”

Facebook expects video traffic on the internet to grow from 50 percent to 75 percent by 2022. “That’s a huge amount of data which has a huge impact on the behaviour of viewing.”

Danker shared these online video stats:

  • 40 percent of total video viewing on Facebook is driven by people sharing content and not from the original video post.
  • One billion people use Facebook Groups each month. “These are people who aren’t necessarily your friends, but you share a connection,” Danker explained. “Increasingly, there are groups built around video.”
  • 5 percent of all Facebook Live broadcasts happen inside Groups—and that figure represents 20 percent of all Groups' time on Facebook.
  • 1 out of every 5 videos on Facebook is live. In the last year the amount of time people spend watching live video on Facebook has grown four-fold.

Facebook Watch is dedicated to shows, which is a new format for Facebook.

“Content tends to follow a theme or stories over a few episodes,” Danker said. “We see a future where any publisher can make a video and find a loyal audience.”

“The [social media] comments around the show are as important to the experience as the video itself,” Danker said. “We think Watch will become a home to shows from reality to live sports, from self-creators to broadcasters.”

To give one example, La Liga giant Real Madrid has 105 million Facebook followers and has a show on Watch—Hala Madrid—which is a behind-the-scenes (non-live) community promotion for the club.

Danker pointed out that MLB has already aired a number of live games on Facebook, but declined to commit to the company's reported interest in bidding for sports rights such as the EPL. “What is interesting is that community is built into sports. It taps into fandom and national pride. We also see that when you can see comments alongside the game it gives a shared sense experience, knowing that others are connecting is what makes [the event] special," Danker said.

MTG explains its OTT strategy

Sharing the IBC keynote was Kim Poder, executive vice president and CEO of Modern Times Group (MTG) in Denmark. Poder is part of the management team at the Nordic business tasked with overseeing its move “from a traditional broadcaster to a global digital entertainer.”

“Because of [internet connected] technology, the value chain has changed completely, and it changed for us as the gatekeeper," Poder admitted. "[Previously] we didn’t even have to answer the phone [for customers] and we could raise the price every year. Where else were [consumers] going to go?”

But MTG woke up to the OTT threat and set about re-engineering its business to focus on OTT and millennials.

“The good news is that the consumption of video is increasing. It’s just moving from traditional TV into new areas which is what was interesting for us," Poder said. “Instead of only looking at threats we discussed opportunities. What do we need to do to reach out to all these new consumer trends and technologies?”

MTG identified new and fast growing millennial focussed e-sports and gaming “as the new black.” It bought leading e-sports producer ESL in 2015, German games developer InnoGames, and, recently, U.S.-based game developer Kongregate.

“Online gaming is about understanding the distribution and content business which is not that far removed from what we have always done,” Poder said.

MTG has also invested in digital video networks including Splay, the biggest video ad network in the Nordics, and Zoomin, claimed as the biggest video network in Europe—which carries 14,000 social channels and receives 1.4 billion monthly views.

“Everything we do now is about scale,” Poder said. “We are committed to staying relevant in our core business. If you take e-sports, the production is very similar to TV. If you close your eyes (and ignore the gaming) you could be in the Champions League watching Liverpool play Real Madrid.”

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