Should Facebook look more like a TV network, say CBS? Maybe it should consider doing so, if it thinks getting into the creative business is a key to growth.
Facebook pulled in $3.7 billion in advertising last year, with the average user spending 12 minutes and 30 seconds per day on the social media site, according to one estimate. Sounds like a lot of time. But many business analysts feel it is nowhere near where Facebook needs to be, considering its new rocketing stock market value.
How can Facebook get people to stick around more? TV networks would tell you there is nothing better than watching a good "engaging" scripted (or nonscripted, for that matter) bit of entertainment.
For example, if Facebook users could watch one 22-minute comedy (otherwise known as a 30-minute comedy) a night, 44 minutes of a drama (also known as a one-hour drama), or another bit of entertainment of a sizable length, Facebook would reach a higher level of consumer daily usage.
Both Facebook and CBS are pretty well fully distributed in the U.S. Facebook has an estimated 225 million U.S. users (850 million worldwide); CBS gets around 290 million U.S. viewers -- virtually the entire U.S. population. Of course, not all "users" use any single medium all the time. For both companies, it isn't about getting more users or viewers, it's about getting more of those people to log on or tune in every day.
The CBS Television Network pulled in around $7 billion in TV advertising revenues (national and local) in 2011, with the average viewer spending more time with the network than with digital media. Overall average TV viewership per person, according to Nielsen Company data, comes down to 4 hours and 34 minutes (274 minutes) -- with CBS commanding a good chunk of this time. This compares to daily consumer usage pf the Internet, which in its entirety, amounts to 2 hours and 37 minutes (167 minutes).
Facebook seemingly has more promise that older TV networks because, in theory, it can do what TV networks do, and a lot more -- on any screen. Facebook has heavy interactions with consumers, who have all important interactions with friends and others -- thus creating what could be a deeper, more effective marketing tool.
But to grow, Facebook might need what CBS -- and other networks -- have been working on for a long time: creating lean-back entertainment content. That's something that fails nine out of ten times.
TV networks still have the stomach to take the creative hits. The big question is: Can Facebook find the next level of creativity necessary to cement its template as the next great media company?