MIPCOM: Facebook's Watch to Focus on Content From Publishers, Users

Jemal Countess/WireImage for IAC
Facebook's Ricky Van Veen

While the social media giant is commissioning shows to seed growth, it will remain an ad-driven platform.

A day after Facebook unveiled the renewal of some of its original shows, global head of creative strategy Ricky Van Veen also announced the pickup of a new teen drama for the Watch platform, an English-language remake of Norwegian hit Skam.

But during his keynote speech at MIPCOM, Van Veen and product management director Daniel Danker emphasized that Watch will remain a user-driven platform.

Facebook's overarching goal for any creator or publisher is to build a community through Watch. Danker said the networking giant is nearing 1,000 shows on the platform with the vast majority being from publishers.

“We are seeding that ecosystem with a small number of shows that will drive growth,” said Danker, adding that the long-term goal is to build a platform for user-uploaded content that can be monetized with advertising or brand-sponsored shows.

As Facebook has battled with fake news sites and stories, Van Veen sidestepped a question about how the platform will handle user-uploaded political videos. “It’s interesting because it is a platform and we have people from all parts of the spectrum uploading shows and videos,” he said. “We are not personally commissioning news content because it is a platform, and it’s great to see those voices.”

Comments and interaction with viewers are the most important component of the platform, the executives emphasized.

With the Watch platform still in its infancy — it launched just six weeks ago — Van Veen said so far Facebook has been surprised by the length of watch, with the average viewer tuning in to a show for 15 minutes. "It's a behavior that we didn’t really know if it would exist,” he said. “We have yet to see the upper limit of how long it will go."

The remake of the Norwegian drama Skam (Shame) will be an experiment, with episodes released in real time and seeing the characters use Facebook and Instagram profiles that interact with each other.

With the level of interaction happening in the comments on shows such as Make Up or Break Up and Win This House Facebook is finding more “intentional viewing” than originally predicted, and user interaction with voting and polls to be driving tune-ins, Van Veen explained.

Plans to launch internationally are in the works, but no time frame is set yet. “First and foremost we have to learn from what we have just rolled out, understand how people’s behaviors are changing, what’s working, what we can do better and what we can do to make the experience better for publishers. That will guide our timeline,” said Danker.

While there are no plans to create Facebook-branded shows, Van Veen said he does hope to see a global show in the future, adding: “What’s compelling about the opportunity at Facebook is to reach a 2 billion person audience. I don’t think that scale of audience has ever been possible before."