Facebook said its nascent Watch service is attracting more than 400 million monthly viewers who spend at least a minute checking out videos, 75 million of whom spend an average of 20 minutes watching shows every day. The self-reported data reflects strong momentum for the year-old service which, prior to its global launch in August, reported just 50 million monthly users in the U.S.
“We’re seeing that people are regularly coming back to catch up on the videos they care about and watching for longer periods of time,” Fidji Simo, Facebook’s head of video, wrote today in a blog post updating the Facebook Watch strategy.
Facebook released updated Watch data Thursday along with news of second-season renewals for four original series including Kerry Washington’s teen dram Five Points and the Elizabeth Olsen-fronted Sorry For Your Loss. The numbers come after news stories raised questions about whether the video platform was losing out to YouTube in its bid to for younger viewers. The social network maintains that’s not the case, pointing to the popularity of shows like Five Points and SKAM Austin, a show that offers authentic stories of the lives of American teenagers.
Watch still has a long way to go to catch YouTube, which attracts 1.8 billion users every month. But veteran media analyst Mike Vorhaus said Facebook’s newly released numbers suggest it could emerge as a serious player in the coming battle of the streaming platforms.
“It’s like sitting down at the beginning of any poker game. I’ve got plenty of chips,” said Vorhaus. “I’ve got 75 million people checking me out. Now it’s up to me to make good enough video.”
Simo positions Facebook Watch as the antidote to the increasingly solitary experience of watching video online. It seeks to add a social component to watching video.
In Facebook’s telling, the appeal of lounging on a virtual couch and watching videos with friends (or like-minded fans) is catching on. Since bringing its Watch Party to everyone on Facebook, Simo said there have been more than 12 million such video gatherings in groups alone. It’s catching on with individuals as well, with Italian chef Benedetta Rossi who hosts Watch Parties for her recipe videos.
Facebook’s original programming is designed to underwrite content that sparks conversation. Simo cities of Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk, which polls its audience for weekly discussion topics, as one example. It just renewed four original shows that do just that.
In the future, Simo said Facebook will work to unify the video experience – which is spread out across Watch, the News Feed, Search and Pages. She said the social network is looking to make the experience “feel immersive,” no matter where users encounter it.