Can Facebook's 'Watch' Take On YouTube?

With Facebook’s much-anticipated announcement of its Watch product, the social media giant is moving into TV-like content with the creation of a video tab that it hopes will become a habit for its users.

With Watch, Facebook essentially creates a video hub to make it easier for consumers to discover and organize videos on its platform.

If  Watch proves successful, it could be an alternative to YouTube.

The move also comes as Facebook prepares a complicated move into original TV programming. With digital ad spending surpassing TV for the first time in 2016, it’s an organic next step for Facebook and others to bank on social video.

But can an offering from Facebook become a credible rival to YouTube and capture dollars that typically go to TV advertising? Ad-tech executives offered insight into Facebook’s latest move.

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“If Facebook truly wants to rival YouTube, creator-developed content is going to play an essential part of the equation,” said Tim Sovay, COO at CreatorIQ, a software platform for influencer marketing. 

“It will be interesting to follow how Facebook manages the ecosystem of creator-driven newsfeed content vs. the more professionally produced content of Watch," Sovay added.  "YouTube has found that balance between their channel driven and Red strategy, but Facebook will continue to have the advantage of stronger discovery through the newsfeed.”

Jason Beckerman, CEO and co-founder, Unified, a data management platform, thinks Facebook Watch could be a “gamechanger for everyone: advertisers, creators, and audiences.”

Beckerman said that as of June, Facebook had 2.01 billion active users globally. “When you compare Facebook to other video platforms, like YouTube, for instance, it’s a much stickier destination. Think about conversations you’ve had— how many people are saying, ‘hold on, let me check YouTube?’”

Beckerman said Facebook Watch is part of the trend of social platforms driving the video conversation: “The social video space allows advertisers to engage with their target audience in real time, anywhere, and Facebook’s user base is prime time for advertisers looking to reallocate their TV ad spend.”

He added: “It’s also important to note that this opens up the marketing supply chain, as the money begins to be shared among many parties. It’s going to be vital for marketers to demand more transparency in both social ad buying and placement."

“It’s still too early to tell what the impact of Watch will have for media agencies or our advertisers. We'll be keeping an eye on it as Facebook starts leveraging the feature with our clients. For now, this seems like more of a user engagement play before Facebook begins tapping into the advertiser side," said Brad Goldberg, VP of advertising at HYFN, a cross-platform social advertising company.

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