Facebook looks to build Watch through aggressive content acquisition strategy

A large chunk of Watch users come from India as the country is Facebook’s biggest market with 320 million users

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Feb 22, 2021 8:40 AM  | 9 min read
Facebook Watch

With India emerging as a video-first digital market, social media giant Facebook is betting big on its video-on-demand service Watch. As per the most recent available figure, Watch had 1.25 billion users globally. A large chunk of Watch users come from India as the country is Facebook’s biggest market with 320 million users.

In order to retain its user base and build stickiness on the platform, Facebook has been beefing up Watch by licencing/commissioning content. The focus on video coincided with the huge growth in consumption of over the top (OTT) and short-video content.

In recent times, Facebook has inked partnerships with Sony Pictures Network India for the India-Australia series, ICC - as their exclusive digital content rights partner across their events till 2023, Filmfare Awards, IIFA Awards as well as partnerships with India’s leading music labels such as T-Series, Zee Music, Yash Raj Films, and Saregama.

Apart from leading publishers, Facebook has also onboarded independent content creators to offer depth and variety of content on Watch. In January 2020, Facebook had said that Watch has emerged as one of the most preferred platforms in India for creators and fans to connect with each other.

Some of the shows launched by the platform in India include edutainment show Be Safe, travel show Heads or Tails, ‘Raat Baaki’, ‘Bae Control’, and food show Dish Unlocked. Last year, it had also commissioned a chat show with cricketer Virender Sehwag called ‘Viru Ki Baithak’.

One of the most significant content bets made by Facebook in India was acquiring the La Liga rights for the Indian sub-continent for three years in August 2018. The company had also made an aggressive bid for the Indian Premier League (IPL) digital rights. While it eventually lost the rights to Star India, its Rs 3900 crore bid forced the industry to sit up and take notice.

Responses from Facebook India did not come till the time of filing this report. However, in a recent interaction with exchange4media.com, Facebook India Director and Head of Partnerships Manish Chopra had said that Watch will continue to focus on sports, entertainment, news, and lifestyle.

“For the year 2021, we will continue to support our partners and creators every step of the way and endeavour to share more unique experiences with users on the platform. We aim to introduce more offerings for our Facebook community to connect with their friends and families seamlessly, along with new exciting products and features. We will continue to build new tools so partners/creators can diversify their revenue and expand their presence on Facebook. We are also looking forward to some exciting collaborations across our key focus areas of sports, entertainment, news, and lifestyle which will help unlock more engaging experiences for users across demographics,” Chopra had said.

Speaking about the partnership with Facebook, LaLiga India MD Jose Antonio Cachaza said that the LaLiga-Facebook relationship has been beneficial for both parties. "Everything in this deal was the first of its kind and new for everyone. It was the first time a social media platform was the exclusive broadcaster of a top league like LaLiga in a top market like the Indian subcontinent. For Facebook, it meant a closer relationship with the football fans and for LaLiga, it gave us an increased exposition to Facebook, which has almost 400 million users in the Indian sub-continent."

Cachaza also pointed out that the LaLiga audience in India has doubled thanks to Facebook. "Our audience has more than doubled since we started our partnership with Facebook; plus, the number of views is three times higher than before. This agreement with Facebook shows us that interest in football and LaLiga continuously growing not only in India but also globally, in fact, LaLiga has reached 2.8 billion people globally last season (cumulative audience of 2019-20 season)."

Talking about the nature of the deal, he said, "As with any other broadcaster partnership, it is a commercial as well as mutual support agreement geared to the growth of both Facebook and LaLiga."

Kurate Digital Consulting senior partner Uday Sodhi said that Facebook has done multiple types of deals with publishers for the Watch platform. He noted that Facebook’s main focus is short-form videos of 5–10-minute length.

“Facebook is following the right strategy by focussing on video content acquisition for Watch. They want to acquire enough content so that they can offer customised content to their users based on algorithms. They are paying content fees in some cases. It is also doing content fee + consumption-based deals. In some cases, it is only doing deals based on consumption,” Sodhi noted.

He also said that the platform has partnered with broadcasters for entertainment content of short durations. This strategy, he said, is a win-win for both parties. “While broadcasters are building their own OTT platforms, they are using Facebook’s massive reach to promote their shows,” he stated.

On monetisation, Sodhi said that Facebook cannot monetise Watch the same way as YouTube does since YouTube has long-form videos where pre-roll ads are possible whereas Facebook Watch mostly has short-form videos. He also noted that Facebook Watch will not want to annoy its viewers by pushing ads in the short-form content.

Sodhi feels that Facebook will first build scale for Watch by aggregating audiences through relevant content. Once it has built enough scale it will start monetising by coming up with customised solutions for advertisers.

Grapes Digital COO Shradha Agarwal pointed out that Facebook’s aggressive video strategy stems from the fact that the platform faces the problem of inactive users due to the emergence of new platforms. The social media platform has also seen user migration to Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook Inc.

She further stated that Facebook has been making efforts to draw more people to its platform and also ensure that the existing user base spends more time.

According to Agrawal, Facebook realised that it has merely become a platform for sharing and commenting. Therefore, launching Watch was its way of staying relevant in the market. She also said that content has emerged as the most important commodity in the digital era.

RepIndia Vice President- Brand Strategy Nazneen Joshi said that Facebook Watch caters to each user's niche - from entertainment to beauty, sports, and everything in between. She added that Watch’s collection of video content derives from creators because no one can post directly on the platform.

Facebook, she said, uses its algorithm to produce basic user engagement and behavioural patterns, using better navigation, expert curation, and smarter machine learning.

“During this last year, when people couldn’t physically come together, we witnessed an exponential increase (In India, Facebook Live viewership jumped 50%) in people turning to Watch to stay connected to creators, artists, sports, entertainment and in general what’s happening in the world, no doubt a direct assault on platforms like YouTube. To support those connections, acquiring dedicated sections within Watch for live videos and curated content becomes paramount. Shows in Watch continue to inspire conversation in Facebook Groups and beyond—which further adds to the value proposition of the platform. This model allows creators a wider platform, while businesses can diversify their revenue and expand presence on Facebook with the potential of allowing brands to select which shows they want to advertise on and thus creating a tiered advertising system to allow companies to advertise on top Watch videos,” Joshi said.

WATConsult EVP, Operations & Media Sahil Shah feels that Facebook should pivot into an original + licensed content model beyond its current model of user-generated video content. He also said that original content will help Facebook to stay relevant in the fast-evolving market.

"Due to low literacy rates, cheap smartphones, cheapest internet plans, and the forced lockdown in 2020; India has rapidly moved to become one of the largest video consumption markets in the world. There are OTT players that have grown at a phenomenal scale; there is YouTube that commands a significant reach pie of video consumption and then there is the Facebook family of apps that have increasingly started pushing video-led content a lot more on their platforms. Facebook beyond its current model of user-generated video content needs to also pivot into original + licensed content if they want to become the super app for everything content,” Shah said.

“Frankly, I do believe they are lagging behind considering the rapid acceleration that has taken place in the last 3-4 years both from OTT and YouTube perspective. So, it will be an interesting "watch" as Facebook, over the years, has had the reputation to pick up the latest trends as to what users want and has evolved as a platform. Video as a content type is not new to Facebook’s radar. Adding more exclusive content with features like collective viewing, sharing, social discovery, etc. will help increase both time-spent, engagement and reach on the platform."

Filter Coffee Co. Founder & CEO Anuja Deora Sanctis said that Facebook faces competition from OTT platforms and to compete it needs content. "Like all streaming services, Facebook Watch saw a surge of users when the pandemic started. But to take on the likes of Netflix, Prime, etc, they will have to expand and which is why they have started acquiring content in India from production houses and music label companies. With the increasing demand for live interactions, maintaining brand value, and managing user engagement, the streaming platform has to deliver the desired content to the audience likewise for stability."

Admatazz Chief Strategist & Founder Yash Chandiramani commented, “I think it's extremely important for Facebook to acquire content like the LaLiga rights so it starts becoming a platform for serious video viewing. Right now, its video feed is dominated by recycled content from other video platforms especially YouTube. This is a good step to increase the time spent on the app. Not only does it have more to offer its users now, including the younger ones that are dwindling away, it also has more spots to offer happy advertisers like us."

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Integral Ad Science launches verification programme for Netflix

This will ensure that ad campaigns on Netflix are free of fraud, and are seen by actual viewers

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 22, 2023 8:37 AM   |   1 min read


Integral Ad Science has launched Viewability and Invalid Traffic verification for Netflix. It will benefit those who have subscribed to the streaming platform's ad-supported plan.

The tool will ensure that ad campaigns on Netflix will be free of fraud, and are seen by actual viewers.  

The verification programme has gone live in 12 countries and across connected TV, computer and mobile platforms. 

This is part of Netflix’s agreement with IAS, which was announced in 2022.

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Amazon Prime Video & Jio front runners in race to host HBO content?

The agreement between Warner Bros Discovery and Disney+ Hotstar is believed to have come to an end as the former asked for an exorbitant fee of Rs 80 crore per year for HBO shows, say sources

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 22, 2023 8:27 AM   |   2 min read


Ever since Disney+ Hotstar decided not to renew its licencing agreement with Warner Bros Discovery, the latter has been looking for a home for HBO content. According to sources in the industry, HBO has been in talks with several OTT platforms in India. However, Jio Cinema and Amazon Prime Video are believed to be the front runners in the race.

"Initially, the content team of HBO was in talks with several OTT platforms, including Netflix, SonyLiv, Amazon Prime Video and Jio Cinema. But it is believed that Jio Cinema and Amazon Prime Video are ahead in the race. Whoever offers the best price, will seal the deal,” said a source close to the development. 

exchange4media reached out to HBO, Amazon Prime Video and Jio Cinema for an official comment, but is yet to receive a response.

It's important to note that Warner Bros. Discovery collaborated with Amazon Prime Video last year to offer a slate of 11 popular HBO Max Original series and 10 HBO Max original features exclusively for Prime members in India.

Disney+ Hotstar announced the end of its association with HBO through a tweet last week. “Starting 31st March, HBO content will be unavailable on Disney+Hotstar. You can continue enjoying Disney+ Hotstar’s vast library of content spanning over 100,000 hours of TV shows and movies in 10 languages and coverage of major global sporting events,” it stated.

As previously reported by exchange4media, the agreement between Disney+ Hotstar and Warner Bros Discovery got over after HBO demanded a fee of Rs 80 crore per year for its shows, say sources.

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India would be a great place for an offline experience: Ryan Latham, Nothing

The Global Director - Brand and Creative of consumer tech company Nothing spoke to e4m on the brand’s design and marketing philosophy, its brick-and-mortar plans in a digital future, and more

By Shantanu David | Mar 22, 2023 8:45 AM   |   5 min read


In a market and media-sphere where so many people so often talk about nothing, Nothing aims to start a whole new conversation. The London-based consumer technology company, backed by heavy hitters like GV (Google Ventures) and EQT Ventures, has created a tremendous amount of buzz in the industry, despite being barely two years old and having launched a soupcon of products.

With its striking minimalist visuals, unique imagery featuring exquisitely shot insects interacting with its devices, and reportedly superior performance and ergonomic capabilities, Nothing has become a focus brand for tech nerds and aesthetes alike.

With its Ear (2) set to be launched today (March 22), e4m spoke to Ryan Latham, Global Director, Brand and Creative, Nothing, during his India visit, about the brand’s design and marketing philosophy, the importance of the Indian market, and its brick-and-mortar plans in a digital future.

“It's great to be in the market to come and visit. We have this set-up where the teams from India travel to London, and we come here as well because you have to be in the market to experience it and to make sure you're tailoring your products to that consumer base,” says Latham, about his maiden India tour with Nothing.

“Besides expanding the market in Saudi Arabia, we are focusing on the Indian market. Also, we're European headquartered, so we've got key partnerships with the network operators and retailers across the UK, Germany, Spain and some of the core European markets. And we've also opened our very first store right in the heart of London's cultural scene,” he says.

Speaking about the Soho store, the company’s first brick-and-mortar store, Latham says that, somewhat paradoxically, the minimalist tech company has always wanted a physical storefront. “We also thought, as a new brand, with a technology product and a design-led product, opting for the more personalized experience helped us in standing out in the clutter of the tech market. We really believe in the community around ‘Nothing’.  Unlike other brands, we chose a small format store instead of investing on to the big Oxford Street.”

This has led the company to assume a design which is quite compact, where it can experiment and learn about how to interact with its customer base and figure out the permutations of creating a fun retail experience. It plans to open more stores in key markets. Is India one of them?

“Nothing is confirmed, nothing is fixed right now in the calendar. But in terms of our thought process, we believe that India would be a great place for an offline experience,” answers Latham, perhaps inadvertently confirming Nothing is fixed in the calendar.

Puns aside, Latham asserts that Nothing is really well positioned because it has that design aesthetic, but it's also a really excellent kind of value product as well. “You're getting a lot for your needs and for your money, from a design point of view. Also, we have a high investment in our OS. We've just launched our Android 13 and we continue to update the product on a really regular basis, having done eight updates since launch. Also, we’ve had feedback from the market and from our customers in India that they've actually found that the phone one is getting better the more they use it.”

Speaking about figuring out the bugs of the system, this conversation would mean nothing (yes, the puns write themselves) without going into the idea of using animal imagery, especially the insect kind, in its visual advertising.

Latham says, “What we're trying is to bring the product to life with some warmth and some personality. Our design ethos is about joyful interactions and designing with our instincts, not just following kind of rulebooks and lots of data. We want to design products that make us feel something. The founding idea of the insects and the animals was bringing technical warmth to the products, bringing them alive. And these insects use instincts to explore. So when you see a beetle interacting with our Ear (2) products, you see it exploring it and trying to find out what it is using its very basic instinct.”

“And we use different characters for different products because they have different, maybe different meanings. With the current product that we're launching, the animal in the creative is an ox beetle. And this ox beetle is a very small, very powerful, and very technical creature; if you look at it, it looks very engineered, very purposeful,” he says.

“And with the Ear (2), the engineering teams have spent a lot of time making the product more compact, but also increasing the performance massively. So, we've got this very small, very strong, very powerful product. And the animal that's interacting with it in some ways mirrors it,” he adds, concluding, “Also, let's not be too pretentious about it, it's also just super fun: a very fun way to demonstrate, to show off the product.”

It’s nothing, really.

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Surinder Films acquires Bengali OTT platform Addatimes

The first web series after acquisition to be streamed on Addatimes will be Amriter Sandhane - The Banaras Chapter

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 3:45 PM   |   2 min read


Kolkata headquartered film production company, Surinder Films, has acquired Addatimes, the first Bengali on-demand OTT Platform of the country

“We have been in the business of Bengali film production, distribution and content creation for both regional & national channels. In today’s context we found that the OTT Platforms have immense growth potential and it is the right time to invest on it. Thus, we decided to acquire Addatimes, the first Bengali and one of the well-known OTT platforms. Here, we would be creating, as well as acquiring content of varied genres keeping in mind the audience interest. We already have an interesting line up of big-ticket Bengali Movies & a host of Web Series’ which we would start streaming soon. We look forward to a creatively exciting journey ahead”, said Nispal Singh, Director, Surinder Films Pvt Ltd.

The first web series after acquisition to be streamed on Addatimes will be Amriter Sandhane - The Banaras Chapter, from14th April, 2023, celebrating the occasion of Poila Boishak (Bengali New Year). This 8-episode series is a mythological thriller set in the holy city of Varanasi. The star cast of Amriter Sandhane - The Banaras Chapter includes Chandan Roy Sanyal, Sauraseni Maitra & Debasish Mondal amongst others and it is directed by Abhinandan Dutta. Following this there will be a rib-tickling series, Gentlemen, starring Joy Sengupta, Mir Afsar Ali, Rudranil Ghosh & Madhurima Basak in the lead, which is directed by Korak Murmu. Gentlemen will be steaming from May, 2023.


This apart, Addatimes would also digitally premiere some mega feature films like Kaberi Antardhan (on 26th March, 2023) followed by Mitin Mashi, SagardwipeyJawker Dhan & Magic and many more in the coming months. New films like Love Marriage, Bhootpori, Ardhangini, Paakhi, Tarakar Mrityu & Tenida will be digitally premiered in Addatimes post their theatrical releases.


“We plan to release between 15 -18 original contents a year, to begin with. As far as the films are concerned, there will be more than one release per month," added Singh.

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Class has no ‘class’

Guest Column: Markand Adhikari, Chairman & MD of SABGROUP, writes that the new trend of nudity and obscenity in OTT is harming society and putting freedom of expression in danger

By Markand Adhikari | Mar 21, 2023 2:30 PM   |   4 min read

Markand Adhikari

Today, I wished to share something with the readers about a new trend in the media/entertainment sector, but let me first confess I feel ashamed and embarrassed to write this as I also come from this fraternity. The trend I am referring to is the kind of content that has excessive vulgarity, nudity and obscenity.

When some of my friends told me about this, I was not ready to believe that the content dished out on a platform, for public consumption, could have fallen to this level. But they insisted and urged me to raise my voice against it. So, I decided to check it out myself. I came across a web series titled ‘Class’ and another called ‘Rana Naidu’, both on a premium OTT platform. I mustered enough willpower but I am sorry to report that I could not watch more than two episodes of each of them.

On TV and the big screen, the content is meant for entertainment. This content did not entertain me; it shocked me, it disturbed me.

When people complain of such excesses, some makers argue that they are merely showing a mirror to society. I beg to differ. What is shown in ‘Class’ and ‘Rana Naidu’ is not the true picture of our culture and society. Is each and every student of an elite school in big cities a drug addict? Is every boy or girl in such high-profile schools indulging in pervert sexual acts? If that were the case, I am sure at least some of the parents would have raised their voices and stopped sending their children to such schools. But that is not the case.

What such content does is not reflect social reality but actually the opposite – instigate our youth and society to go down this path by giving them ideas. Do we want today’s youth to take that path and create a generation of drug peddlers, sex maniacs and criminals? Or do we want to see them as doctors, administrators, scientists, thinkers and leaders of the future?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating strict censorship. I believe I am very liberal-minded and have been a strong advocate of the freedom of expression. But crossing the limits of what can be said and what can be shown on the screen is a shameless and blatant violation of the Freedom of Expression. The premium platform where ‘Class’ and ‘Rana Naidu’ is streaming is abusing the right to free expression.

Let us agree that nudity, vulgarity and obscenity cannot be sold in the name of fundamental rights. If you think so, then why stop at ‘Class’ and ban outright pornography? That too should be ok. If so, is it the case that some porn producers and peddlers have been prosecuted because their platform is not as big?

Let me reiterate that the issue here is nudity and not fundamental rights. Those who defend this vulgarity in the name of rights are actually destroying our social fabric and harming our culture. Selling obscene content in the name of freedom of expression is actually putting this freedom and this right in danger. They are forcing the authorities to consider censorship of OTT content. Then, we as an industry will have no argument against the government. In other words, these “advocates” of freedom of expression will be responsible for the censorship of OTT content, and we will be responsible for digging our own graves.

Alarm bells are ringing. I strongly believe we should wake up and put a stop to this trend. Enough is indeed enough.

Markand Adhikari is Chairman and Managing Director of SAB Network.

(The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com)

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NCLAT reserves judgment in Google case

The tribunal has been hearing this case since February 15

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 11:43 AM   |   1 min read


The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) has reserved its judgment in the Google versus CCI case, say media reports.

The appellate body has been hearing this case since February 15.

Last week, the CCI informed NCLAT that the tech major was not a 'dominant' but 'super dominant' undertaking.


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Hoop Entertainment signs multi-show deal with Audible

Hoop Entertainment will produce 70 hours of original, multi-character, audio series content that will be exclusively distributed on Audible

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 11:32 AM   |   1 min read


Audible, a creator and provider of premium audio storytelling, has signed an exclusive deal for 10-audio dramas with Nikhil Mirchandani’s Hoop Entertainment.

Hoop Entertainment will produce 70 hours of original, multi-character, audio series content, across mythology, drama, history, true crime and horror genres, creating a “theatre of the mind” experience that will be exclusively distributed on Audible.

The 10 new shows produced by Hoop will be available free for all listeners, exclusively on Audible.

Shailesh Sawlani, VP and Country Manager for India at Audible, said, "We are incredibly excited to collaborate with Hoop Entertainment to bring captivating content to all listeners for free on Audible. We are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to provide our listeners with best-in-class content, and Hoop Entertainment's expertise in producing audio dramas across a variety of genres perfectly aligns with our vision. We are confident our shared passion for storytelling will help us to continue to deliver an immersive experience for our listeners."

Nikhil Mirchandani, Founder, Hoop Entertainment, said, “We're thrilled at the opportunity to produce a multitude of audio series across genres for Audible. The stories, narrative, performances, and sound design will create a ‘theatre-of-the-mind’ experience. Audio is the next entertainment frontier, and our audiences are ready for complex storytelling and personalized audio experiences. We thank Audible for trusting & enabling us to explore this medium to the fullest.”

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