It has been three months since Facebook launched Watch nationwide. Stacked with premium programming, funded in part by the social media giant, the new platform came out with guns blazing. Over the past three months, Facebook has continued to beef up its content offering on the platform, which is now home to over 100 original programs. The company has also expressed its willingness to spend up to $1 billion on original content in the upcoming year to keep this momentum going. But one thing Facebook’s Watch seems to be struggling with is viewership, and if it plans to compete with the likes of Google’s YouTube, it will need to do more than throw wads of cash at the wall in the hopes that it sticks.
The company recently announced that it would be renewing several of its top series including Bunim/Murray Production’s “Ball in the Family” and Mike Rowe’s “Returning the Favor,” two shows that have amassed more than 600k followers and millions of views during their short time on the platform. The concern, however, is that despite their strong start in attracting tens of millions of viewers, the honeymoon period may be over. A recent graph, released by Business Insider, tracked viewership of the platform’s top shows and revealed that viewers are losing interest in the content at a drastic rate.
A&E’s Watch Series “Bae or Bail,” for example, garnered over 30 million views on its first episode, but its next four consecutive shows didn’t touch 3 million. Even more surprising, that first episode was launched while Watch was still in its beta stages, before being available nationwide.
“Pretty much every show saw the same pattern,” Paul Greenburg, who led the development of “Bae or Bail” told the news publication. “It was good to see that everyone saw that drop.”
Despite the steep decline in numbers, Facebook isn’t basing renewals on the number of views a show garners, but by how many users watch through an entire season, several partners who have shows on the platform told BI.
“Having a loyal audience who comes back to watch every episode is the foundation of building vibrant communities, which is the core of Watch,” Facebook VP of product Fidji Simo explained in a recent interview. “We are already seeing this happening, with people planning to watch shows they care about, getting drawn into the storylines and building communities.”
In addition to building a loyal audience, Facebook is planning to fund longer shows with bigger budgets, sources told BI. This push into longer-form content can be attributed to an increase in watch time experienced on the video platform. According to a study conducted by Delmondo, a Facebook media partner, the average watch time per Watch episode is 50% higher than Facebook’s self reported watch time of 16.7 seconds for auto playing videos on its News Feed.
Facebook’s Watch is still in its infancy. The drop in viewership, which may worry those who are heavily invested in the platform, is all part of the process. These first few months have been more of a testing period to discover what works and what doesn’t. Though it would be nice to see viewership jump back up to the tens of millions, finding a loyal and invested audience is just as valuable.