After market close today, social network Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) will report financial results for its fourth quarter. While the company's earnings release will include lots of important information for investors, some of the most interesting updates on the company could come from Facebook's earnings call later this evening.
During the social-network's earnings calls, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with a few other Facebook executives, typically provide more context not only for the most recent quarter, but also for future expectations and plans. Further, since this quarterly report wraps up Facebook's 2016, management may spend extra time hashing out some details on its outlook for the full year.
Ahead of the earnings call, here are three questions Zuckerberg will hopefully answer:
1. With a potential initial public offering on the horizon, is Snapchat a threat?
Between Facebook's last earnings call and this one, speculation has mounted about messaging app Snapchat's potential for an initial public offering (IPO) in the coming months. Indeed, Snapchat is expected to reveal its financial statements and other disclosures related to an IPO as early as this week, according to Bloomberg.
Snapchat's IPO would likely represent the most notable new publicly traded entrant into Facebook's space since Facebook went public in 2012. While Snapchat's social network differs greatly from Facebook's core platform, it's right down Instagram's alley. So there's good reason for investors to be concerned about Instagram's potential in a publicly traded Snapchat world. After all, one of Instagram's best features was an unashamed clone of Snapchat's core Stories product.
2. Can investors expect meaningful monetization from messaging in 2017?
Another area for investors to look for Zuckerberg to comment on during today's earnings call is the company's messaging business. With over 1 billion monthly active users on both Messenger and WhatsApp, these two social platforms could turn into significant businesses for Facebook over the long haul.
And investors would be justified to have big expectations for Facebook's messaging business. Facebook valued WhatsApp at an incredible $21.8 billion when the company acquired the messaging app in October 2014.
Facebook has been rapidly deploying new features for its messaging apps, setting the stage for meaningful monetization. Namely, it has been making it easier for businesses to interact with customers within Messenger and WhatsApp -- a step in building social networks into businesses that Facebook always employs before it begins monetizing customer interactions.
3. Is TV Facebook's next frontier?
Finally, speculation about the social network's move into TV has been building in the days leading up to Facebooks' earnings report. On Jan. 31, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is developing an app for television set-top boxes, aiming to position the company to roll out more original content and beef up its ad dollars by competing more directly with marketers' television advertising budgets.
The Journal's Deepa Seetharaman and Jack Marshall explain:
The app is one of several Facebook projects aimed at making it a "video-first" company that can compete for television ad dollars. The social giant has been marketing its live-streaming capabilities, testing a new video ad product and integrating more videos into Instagram, its photo-sharing app.
Facebook is also in discussions with media companies to license long-form, TV-quality programming, people familiar with the situation said. A set-top box app would be a natural way to distribute that "premium" content and make it accessible on TV sets.
Facebook's fourth-quarter results will be posted shortly after market close on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Management will host a live earnings call at 2:00 p.m.PST on the same day. Both the earnings release and the company's live earnings call can be accessed at the company's investor relations website.