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Facebook Watch's Biggest Hurdles

By Adam Levy - Updated Dec 19, 2018 at 11:13AM

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Only a handful of Facebook users actually watch content on Facebook Watch.

Facebook (FB -3.67%) launched Watch, its video hub, last August in the U.S., and still only half of users in the country have even heard of it.

Facebook recently released some details about Watch, including the fact that it has 400 million monthly active users. Of those users, 75 million log in daily.

And while those numbers might seem impressive in a vacuum, it's practically nothing compared to Alphabet's (GOOG -2.76%) (GOOGL -2.90%) YouTube. YouTube has 1.8 billion users logging in every month, and the average user watches over an hour of videos on mobile each day. Facebook's daily users average about 20 minutes per day, and it only takes one minute of watch time to qualify as a monthly user.

However, it seems like the people who do use Watch really enjoy the content. So, Facebook's biggest hurdle is getting more people to check out what's available on Watch.

The Facebook Watch tab on a laptop

Image source: Facebook.

Getting in front of people

Half of Facebook's U.S. users have never even heard of Watch, according to a survey by The Diffusion Group in August. That's not for lack of trying on Facebook's part. It's run television advertisements since launching.

But that strategy might be misguided. While the company is clearly willing to spend big money on advertising its new video platform, it might be overlooking the most obvious advertising platform for the service.

Facebook doesn't seem to advertise Facebook Watch within Facebook itself. Instead, it relies on users to spread Watch organically by sharing videos they enjoyed. But most users, as evidenced by TDG's survey, don't even realize the video their friend shared is part of the larger Facebook Watch ecosystem. Showing a teaser video in News Feed with an invitation to explore more in the Watch tab may produce better results.

Taking up ad inventory in News Feed isn't exactly free for Facebook, especially considering it already faces ad load saturation challenges. But the cost of showing ads for Watch in News Feed is likely less than national television ad campaigns during big events like Monday Night Football.

Tentpole content

On top of the 50% of U.S. Facebook users who've never heard of Facebook Watch, another 24% have heard of it, but have never used it. Facebook hasn't given these users a good reason to click on the Watch tab.

That might be starting to change. Facebook released Sorry for Your Loss in September, which has received critical acclaim and a considerable amount of press coverage. It's the kind of content that not only brings greater attention to Watch, but gives users a reason to click on the tab.

Facebook has several original productions, but Sorry for Your Loss is one of the few that have actually broken through to a wider audience. It might not be the last, though. Facebook is spending hundreds of millions on original content, and it reportedly has an appetite for big-budget dramas.

Once Facebook overcomes the hurdles of increasing awareness of Watch and increasing the reasons people should use Watch, it seems to have good success. Three out of five Watch users stream something at least once per week, according to TDG's survey. And Facebook says daily users average over 20 minutes per day of watch time.

There's still a long way to go before Facebook Watch rivals YouTube in terms of users and watch time, but the strong engagement among those who actually use the service suggests that Watch could get there if it continues to increase awareness and add compelling content to the platform.

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