Can Facebook challenge YouTube’s video reign?

As Facebook pushes aggressively to woo video content creators, is YouTube’s long held dominance in jeopardy?

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Aug 3, 2016 8:34 AM
Can Facebook challenge YouTube’s video reign?

YouTube has long been hailed as the go-to platform for content creators online. It is no secret that it has made the careers of scores of them by offering them an almost zero cost way to reach out to the masses. The likes of All India Bakchod and The Viral Fever are household names in the country, while international YouTube stars like Lindsey Sterling and PewDiePie have also become significant among digital natives. For example, PewDiePie, has been named by Time magazine in its ‘The 100 Most Influential People” list.

YouTube, itself, has always recognized the importance of its continuously burgeoning community by encouraging young talent through various means. Initiatives like YouTube Red, the subscription-based service, and YouTube Spaces, its on-ground production facility for talent, have further helped budding stars to showcase their talent.

However, as usually happens, YouTube might now see its dominance challenged by arch rival Facebook. Over the years, Facebook has been aggressively building itself as a video platform in keeping with its focus areas of mobile, video and content.

In June, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook has inked contracts with 140 media companies and celebrities to create original content for its live streaming service. These include the likes of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, comedian Kevin Hart and digital publishers like Vox Media, Mashable, Huffington Post, CNN and The New York Times. The report further stated that the company will make total payments worth $50 million to these publishers.
The company has also approached Indian content creators to partner with it with original content and is also currently beta testing a monetization model with them. Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO at Culture Machine, confirmed that a monetization model was being tested but contractual obligations did not allow him to give more information.

Currently, content creators work with YouTube on a 55-45 per cent split with the creator keeping the majority of ad revenues. However, as was pointed out to us, most of them are now working on branded content; working directly with the brand, so there is no longer the same kind of dependency on pre-roll ads and their ilk as there was, say, 5 years ago.

Gurpreet Singh, Co-founder and COO at One Digital Entertainment told us that inventory fill rate is “not great” on YouTube. “We are not making money on every view which affects CPM. But digital is evolving so things are better right now,” he said.
On the other hand, if rumors are to be believed, Facebook will be providing a much better deal to its video partners. Take for example, Instant Articles, the platform Facebook launched for multimedia content. Facebook allows publishers to keep nearly the entire ad revenue with them.

It would be interesting to see if a model like this changes the game in India when it comes to video content.

So how does Facebook, as a video platform, compare with YouTube?

In terms of engagement, targeting and reach, Facebook is on par with Google in most respects. In fact, in terms of engagement and targeting, there are many who feel that it actually outdoes the search giant.

“Engagement is far superior on Facebook,” says Pitalwalla, calling it a more community-driven approach with richer engagement. “It (engagement) is nearly 5 to 6 times better than YouTube. In terms of reach, Facebook is again heavily competing with YouTube,” he further added.

Singh also feels that Facebook has come a long way and has its own set of advantages even though YouTube is still the default video destination. “Facebook is great for discovery of content but if I want to specifically watch video content, especially in the music category, then we prefer YouTube. Also, artists prefer to know benchmarks like the number of likes, etc. they have received,” he said, though adding that Facebook has been improving its analytics and other features.

"Instant Articles has been a big hit for our text pieces. On video, we get almost an equal number of views from YouTube and Facebook for our long form content like Web Series. I believe in the future, both YouTube and Facebook will become equally important for video and one can’t ignore either. Video monetization on YouTube is currently better but I believe it is a matter of time before Facebook also works out this aspect as well," said  Ajay Chacko , Co-founder and CEO of Arré.

Pitalwalla also agreed with this opinion. “YouTube still holds the edge in longer format content, which is content that is longer than 10+ minutes. In every other metric, Facebook has already edged out YouTube,” he told us. 

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