One thing that has been proven is that top-down programming of original content into a social platform is hard and, most likely, impossible. That is not to say that programming into a social platform is impossible, only top-down programming is impossible (i.e. programming that comes from FB vs publishers native to the platform). Shit, even programming into a pure video platform is hard (see YouTube Red, Vimeo, Daily Motion et al).
Since time immemorial, the main component working against these platforms is their user’s behavior. Users do not go to FB, Snapchat or Twitter to consume long-form, produced content (i.e. over 10 min) unless it is the only option (i.e. bed, toilet or waiting in line). This is why FB will never be able to successfully program a bolted-on feature like Watch. The integration of long-form scripted and unscripted content into Facebook is an unnatural fit and they should remain focused on the content that publishers are gaming for feed compatibility. They should stick with time lapse, feel-good, news, letter-boxed and getting-it-the-nuts videos until a publisher figures out the next hack to divert someone’s attention from a picture of their friends. Most importantly, they should understand that, while integrating scripted/unscripted into Facebook is not going to work, integrating Facebook into a platform that is built on scripted/unscripted will (i.e. a platform built on the correct user behavior).
So, while Facebook Watch will not work in its current form, I see Facebook winning in a more distributed fashion. They should acquire a company like Roku, Pluto or XUMO where they can bring Facebook to the content instead of the content to Facebook. That is what they’re good at and it’s what built their business – the social graph. There are 100 ways to integrate a standalone video product into the feed (think YouTube before they buried YouTube – i.e. the current Instagram integration) that will drive an exponentially better experience for the consumer and position the Facebook programming team(s) for a much better chance of success. There are a lot of talented people on the FB programming team but, I do not envy their current task of cramming produced content into the Watch tab.
If Roku or Pluto was limited to FB authentication (or, highly suggested) they could begin to leverage what they’re good at – user insights around interaction with 3rd party and user-generated content to sell advertising. Further, this would empower the programming team with premium shelf-space in front of consumers that are actually there to watch the content they’re commissioning vs time-lapse recipe videos. They would be able to spread their programming wings in this environment in a way they can’t inside the existing product and begin to truly understand what it is their users want to watch and how they want to watch it.
Chief Strategy Officer & CoFounder