Facebook Tests Pre-Roll Ads On Watch

Changing course, Facebook has decided to test pre-roll ads in front of videos streamed in its Watch service.

The decision -- first reported by AdAge -- comes just months after Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg told investors that pre-rolls weren’t in the company’s future.

To date, mid-roll ads have been Facebook’s preferred video monetization model of choice.

Amid the rise of Watch, however, analysts say Facebook is smart to be reconsidering its video ad strategy.

“Testing pre-roll for Watch content makes sense,” Forrester analyst Melissa Parrish said on Friday. “From a user’s point of view, it’s a totally different type of content and experience … From FB's point of view, it's a totally different strategy.”

Unveiled in August, Watch represents Facebook’s more ambitious video effort to date. It was designed to complement the various videos that users find in their News Feeds.

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Similar to what consumers have come to expect from YouTube, Facebook is positioning Watch as a platform for all types of streaming “shows,” from video blogs to live broadcasts to scripted series.

While still relatively new, Facebook’s video ad strategy is already showing signs of success. Across its flagship platform and Audience Network, internal data shows more than 70% of in-stream video ads -- up to 15 seconds in length -- are viewed to completion.

The social network increasingly owes its success to video, analysts say.

“Facebook’s users are captivated by videos on the platform,” eMarketer forecasting analyst Monica Peart noted in a recent report. “Video, both live and recorded, is a key driver of growing user engagement and advertiser enthusiasm.”

As for Facebook’s pre-roll test, analyst say it is too early to tell how viewers with respond.

“Nobody says they like pre-roll -- just like almost nobody says they like TV commercials,” said Parrish. “But plenty of people watch it and many take actions … We’ll just have to see if they’re willing to do that in the [Facebook] Watch environment.”

Facebook did not return requests for comment by press time.

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