Facebook video viewership is growing by leaps and bounds. It now sees 8 billion average daily video views from 500 million users. That’s up from just 4 billion video views per day in April. Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement on the call to investors following Facebook’s blockbuster Q3 2015 earnings report.
Some might contend that this stat isn’t totally accurate since Facebook counts just 3 seconds of watching as a “view”. But the 100% growth in seven months shows that even when controlling for this limitation of the metric, users are still voraciously consuming videos.
Even at just 3 seconds per view, Facebook is generating 760 years of watch time each day. That means there’s a ton of space for Facebook to lure in TV commercial dollars that are shifting to digital. It also has an opportunity to grow viewership further with an ongoing test where it pays a revenue share to top video crators.
The new stat explains why Facebook is running a ton of experiments on how it can get users to watch more videos after the discover one. It’s testing a Suggested Video interface on web and mobile the recommends additional clips to watch based on all the information Facebook knows about people. It’s this personal data that could give Facebook an edge in discovery as it competes with YouTube.
Facebook is also testing a dedicated video feed where people can browse different channels of videos shared by friends, trending on Facebook, and other themes. The team told me they could imagine this interface one day allowing users to have a lean-back Facebook video watching experience on smart TVs.
Other tests include picture-in-picture viewing so users can keep watching a video while they browse the News Feed, and more prominent option to Save a video to watch later.
Meanwhile, Facebook is trying to solve a big problem around Freebooting, or people stealing and sharing other creators’ videos. Right now, it’s building its own in-house intellectual property tool that will let creators block or potentially monetize copies of their videos uploaded by others.
If it can get IP sorted out, it could court more top video creators to the new revenue share program Facebook is testing, which it talked about last month. Mark Zuckerberg explained on today’s earnings call that “There’s a certain class of content which is only going to come onto Facebook if there’s a good way to compensate the content owners…we’ve recently rolled out the business model for this.”
Essentially, Facebook is showing premium videos from a limited test group of top creators in its Suggested Videos reel. If those videos gets users to sit through more video ads, Facebook will pay out a percentage of that ad revenue to the creators.
Video is critical for the future of both Facebook’s mission and business.
The company aims to connect users and help them share what they care about. Video is becoming the top way to share. That’s in part because the vivid format is aided by the proliferation of mobile phones with powerful video cameras, expansion of storage on these phones and computers, and faster mobile networks to upload and watch these videos. Facebook thrived by embracing photos back around 2005, and now it wants to ride the video wave.
And in terms of revenue, video ads command the highest rates. They leave such a strong impression that advertisers are willing to pay Facebook top dollar. If Facebook just jammed these videos into the feed, users would be pissed. But by growing organic video viewership, Facebook is able to subtly insert ads without ruffling too many feathers.
COO Sheryl Sandberg today said that 1.5 million small and medium-sized businesses shared videos in September. Some likely paid to turn those videos into ads to get more views. And considering average ad revenue per user in the US shot up 50% this year, the video ad strategy is working.
In the end, Facebook wins if it can become a destination to watch video or just a place people get sucked in to watch. That will let Facebook defend against other video-focused platforms hoping to steal attention while also earning more money to fund its future gambits like the successor to video — virtual reality.