There is much hype right now concerning Facebook’s rapid ascendance to online video dominance. The social network boasts 1 billion video views per day and at the end of 2014 already surpassed YouTube’s number of videos viewed on desktop. Facebook’s emergence as top video platform was so fast, it didn’t feel like a revolution but more like a coup it had been preparing for months.
Roughly four months ago, the suppliers of hype were on a different note. It was all about how Facebook is no longer cool and how the young people are leaving it for new, parents-free platforms. The figures back that notion as well. During 2014 the social network saw a drop in usage amongst the 16-24’s and the overall engagement activity (shares and likes) dropped a full 20 percent.
So which is it? For digital TV execs, should Facebook be the centre of your 2015 video strategy? Or demoted in favour of Vine and Tumblr?
Hype needs to be respected and suspected. A billion views per day is a force to be reckon with, but one must remember “auto-play”. Facebook has introduced a feature in 2014 that makes all videos in your feed run automatically, by default, ergo the spike in views (NB: this is the case for videos posted to personal accounts, but not to brand pages).
YouTube still holds the title of undisputed king of video. 85% of online adults are regular visitors to the site and in 2014 it got more monthly visits than Facebook. It doesn’t mean that it will rule forever, but Facebook’s video agenda is an alternative to something most users are content with.
Also, YouTube has video clips and viral videos while Facebook is “less cool”. But how much of an issue is that?
With its 1.4 billion users, Facebook needn’t run after the latest trends. Being cool will not decide its fate. Facebook doubles the amount of social activity of pretty much any other social platform out there. No second screen app, nor even Twitter, comes close to its clout and ability to turn viewers into communities. The decline in teen activity is minor and even so, most money and most viewers are not teens. If Facebook really wants to pursue video, then it has the potential to change the ecosystem as we know it. And it looks like it really wants to.
Facebook now displays video embedded from YouTube in much smaller posts than it used to, prompting less views. Those embedded videos are less displayed in the feed than videos that were uploaded directly to Facebook, prompting less shares. In other words, if YouTube was the video platform and Facebook the distribution platform, then Facebook is pushing out YouTube at the expense of its own native video player.
Facebook is also wooing YouTube stars, the heart of YouTube content enterprise, but this is not a strong indication for its agenda; as indeed, everybody in media is doing that.
A much better indication of Facebook’s intentions is the TV deal it closed with the NFL. The Sports’ videos will be posted on Facebook, followed by Verizon ads (who also pays for the promotion). This is especially worth noting for TV and marketing folks as Facebook’s amount of users and data, opens up a world of possibilities for new ad formats that are better than the 30 second pre-roll, which is really a TV format and not a web format.
So, is Facebook the new YouTube? I don’t think so. First and foremost, Facebook is a social network and YouTube is a video platform. There is enough distinction in their core to allow them to inhabit the change and find differentiation. While Facebook has the potential to dramatically alter the video echo system, I think we’re viewing an evolution rather than a revolution, and as is usually the case with evolution, only time will tell…