Can Facebook’s video app for TV make YouTube uncomfortable?

Apart from other new updates to Facebook Videos, the company has announced to roll out a native app for TV which will let members access all the Facebook videos in a TV format. Can it challenge YouTube?

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An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’

Facebook is changing the dynamics of its video experience. According to a blog by Dana Sittler, Product Manager, Facebook and Alex Li, Engineering Manager, Facebook, the social media company has updated its video experience to be more engaging, richer and flexible. The company has announced that it is bringing sound to videos in newsfeed, larger vertical video formats to mobile and the ability to drag the video to the corner of the screen while browsing the newsfeed (like a picture-in-picture format).

Apart from these, one of the most interesting update is the launch of the Facebook video app for TV. Currently being rolled out to Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV, users of these brands can watch Facebook videos on a larger screen. Last year the company had had launched the ability to stream videos from Facebook on TVs. According to the company, the latest announcement is an expansion to that capability.

Liking & sharing on the bigger screen

Facebook states that the app will allow members to watch videos shared by friends or Pages they follow, live videos, and recommended videos based on their interests. Users also will have the ability to watch saved videos and access a history of videos watched, shared and uploaded. The app will not support the 360 degree videos as of now.

For users who are well versed with watching Facebook videos, know that it comes as a consolation with everything else. There are pictures, text, updates, events, news that are encountered by an average user when he/ she scrolls down on the newsfeed, and videos, take a considerable amount of screen space while doing so.

Mostly videos are posted directly to Facebook or through other media platforms such as Snapchat, YouTube or Vimeo to name a few. Since a lot of videos come from different platforms, a user can chose whether to watch the video on Facebook as a part of the newsfeed or pop it open in the browser or corresponding app. Which brings us to the question, can Facebook video app for TV be taken as a serious contender in the video app realm?

Can it play ball with heavyweights?

Maybe, since the social media network has been experimenting and also succeeding with various video experiences; one can watch 360 degree video, do live ‘vodcasts’ (video-podcasts), pull video content uploaded by Facebook users and even stream videos using AirPlay on Apple TV or Chromecast, and now the company has announced the video app for TV. But does it have enough to go head to head with a player like YouTube in the TV video app space?

Google-owned YouTube claims that the YouTube on TV experience is an optimized version of YouTube that makes it easy to find and watch high-quality YouTube videos on the television. The application and its different versions have been specifically customized for smart TVs, media streaming devices, Google TV, Android TV, and some Apple TVs.

Upping its game

A news article in TechCrunch stated that the app could place Facebook in direct competition with YouTube as it too would be building a video community. But before that it would have to devise monetization methods and ramp up its content game. It also mentioned that the social media giant was looking to license music labels for upping the number of videos shared and viewed.

Another article in recode last year stated that Facebook had hired Ricky Van Veen, the Co-Founder of CollegeHumor, a comedy website and CEO of Notional, a television production company, for creating new kind of video content on the social media site.

Though Facebook does have video engagement analytics and engagement stats as a part of its metrics, last year a WSJ article pointed out that the company made a major faux-pas, as it miscalculated the average time users spent on Facebook videos for two years. Which tells us that it also needs to get its backend tech-game right, if it wants to go toe-to-toe with YouTube, an old hat in this field.

Seeing is believing

Another media report furnished that the social media giant had about 8 billion video views per day from 500 million users last year, but more than 80% of its 30 second videos were being watched without sound. Well Facebook has fixed that aspect with the new updates, that we mentioned in the beginning. However, Facebook has somehow been able to create an ecosystem where publishers post short videos which are more informative in terms of visuals than audio. Hence, its not necessary for users to turn on the volume. But will that audience appreciate the fact that they can access all those on a larger screen?

On the other hand being a dedicated video only platform YouTube has more than 1.3 billion users and according to an industry statistics website, over 4.9 billion videos are viewed every day, with 300 hours of video content being added every minute and scoring an average of 1 billion mobile views every day. Will Facebook be able to come up with that kind of content?

Dan Rose, VP Partnerships Facebook in a Re/code Code Media Conference said that the app will make it easier for users to watch the video they encounter in their News Feeds. “We want people to be able to consume content wherever they are — whether it’s on their phone, whether it’s on their computer — and TV is just another screen for that. But we’re a mobile-first company, so the products we build will always be oriented around the experience you have on a mobile device when you’re watching video.”

Talking about India, there are apps on TV like Hotstar — which provides TV shows, movies and live cricket matches — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Spuul, Voot, BIGFlix, Sony LIV, Ogle, Hungama, DittoTV, HOOQ — which are all video, movies and TV show streaming apps — and YouTube, which is the go-to app for all kinds of genres. Considering the above, will customers use the Facebook video TV app for watching non-original content? Only time will tell.

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