Social networking company Facebook Inc will launch its original video offering ‘Watch’ in India sometime “early next year”, according to multiple industry persons aware of the development. The timeline, they say, could be “anywhere between January and March of 2018.”
Watch, which launched in the United States in August, is considered to be Facebook’s YouTube competitor, with a focus on long-format, premium and professionally produced video content, or what it calls “shows”. These shows, as per sources, are timed anywhere between eight and 20 minutes. In an e-mailed response to The Ken, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We recently launched Watch in the US, and we’re gathering feedback. We hope to roll out to additional countries in the future, but we don’t have the timing to share.”
With Watch, Facebook will become the latest entrant to India’s already crowded digital video space, which besides YouTube, includes other over-the-top and on-demand services such as Hotstar (Star India), Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Watch is slightly different from the videos you probably see on your news feed, in the sense that it offers a dedicated, personalised space i.e. a tab for original, episodic video shows.
Facebook’s focus on India with Watch comes at an interesting time, both from a consumption and a content creation perspective. From a user behaviour point of view, things are changing thanks to the existing video platforms. “There’s a clear transition from consumption of short-form to long-form television quality content, especially on mobile. Data constraints are clearly no longer an issue, especially if people can watch an entire cricket match or movie on their devices,” says an industry insider who requested not to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, adding, “Facebook would want to ride that wave.”
Besides, with a video product like Watch, Facebook will also seek to engage content creators and publishers better, something YouTube has struggled with over the last twelve months. “There are two larger trends we’ve observed as publishers: Facebook gives us views, and YouTube gives us quality viewers. But even as YouTube has been constantly innovating with its platform, they don’t make half their features available to us,” says a senior official of a New Delhi-based digital media startup, before adding, “Facebook, on the other hand, has been very accessible and publishers enjoy very good relations with them.” This official is not authorised to speak to the media.
Over the last two months, Facebook has been on an aggressive hiring spree. It is actively seeking a product marketing manager for Watch, along with strategic partner managers and data analysts.