Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, once said the following regarding the pre-roll advertising format: “We don’t need to do pre-roll because our model is not one where you come to Facebook to watch one piece of content, you come to look at a feed”. Zuckerberg previously banned pre-roll from Facebook’s advertising vernacular since he felt it annoys viewers who are trying to get to their desired content. Facebook integrated mid-roll advertisements in early 2017 to videos that publishers shared to the network. With the ability to capture the viewers’ attention right away, Zuckerberg believed they would also be able to capitalize on a 20 second or less ad break. However, these mid-roll placements have not seemed to generate much of a profit, which could hinder Facebook’s ability to attract programming from various publishers.
Given the launch of Watch, Zuckerberg believes that this new application is meant for viewers to specifically watch content which provides Facebook with the opportunity to implement pre-roll advertising prior to an individual viewing a show/video as the viewer will continue after watching the advertisement. Watch shows are unlike the typical short clips that will pop up in a news feed, such as those videos of the guy pranking his grandmother or the dog videos that will leave you wanting to adopt a dozen of them. These videos have their own logo, name, and dedicated tab on Facebook. Watch was designed to provide more of a TV feel with longer content.
This is the company’s first effort to have their own videos as a standalone property. Watch is set to draw loyal, returning viewers who have a different mindset than those scrolling down their Facebook feed as fast as possible. Given the recent buzz around this new platform, Facebook is in the process of updating and renewing some shows for additional episodes and developing new ones for Watch. Publishers such as Insider, Tastemade, and Refinery29 are just a handful that will be producing content for Watch. Facebook has been assessing the shows and how much they are resonating with fans. “They’re focused on repeat visits, and not just looking for a single video that goes viral and winds up in everyone’s feed,” says one of the Watch partners. In addition, the company uses data to better understand media habits of users, which will allow it to assess which viewers will tolerate pre-roll videos and which ones will not. One company executive was quoted as saying, “For those people who watch for longer amounts of time, they could get in-stream ads. And people who tend not to watch for very long, they would instead see a pre-roll.” As our viewing habits and advertising methods have evolved, it appears Facebook’s view on pre-roll advertising has as well.