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Community Is Key to Video – Facebook's Danker

Aditya Kishore

AMSTERDAM -- IBC 2017 -- IBC began today in Amsterdam, bringing thousands of media professionals from around the world flooding into Amsterdam. Flooding really is the right word, with steady rain and heavy winds affecting flights into the Dutch city.

For those who made it in, the show officially kicked off with a moderated session exploring the impact of fans and friends on the media ecosystem and the resulting opportunities and challenges for broadcasters. Mostly though, attention was focused on Watch, the relatively new video platform from Facebook .

Facebook's Daniel Danker, who was brought in from Shazam last year to roll out Facebook Live worldwide as well as shepherd new formats such as 360D for the company, described Facebook's plans and thinking around the launch of the video platform. He also added further detail during a panel discussion later in the day.

Danker said Facebook's decision to launch Watch was initially driven by the tremendous growth in video uploads and views it was seeing on the social network. But further analysis determined that video on Facebook was largely "community-driven." For example, 40% of video views on Facebook come from videos that are shared rather than posted.

Facebook users were finding videos through friends and groups, and in turn recommending them to others and discussing them among their communities.

"Community is key to video," according to Danker.

As video became more popular on Facebook, people were coming to the network specifically to watch video. So the team decided to create a new place and tab on the app specifically for video viewing.

"Watch is about shows," said Danker, defining a show as a series of videos that take you through a narrative. "Facebook has hundreds of shows now, in a variety of genres, created by a variety of producers."

He also pointed to the "Watchlist" feature, which alerts viewers when a new episode of a show they have previously watched becomes available. "It's not just viewers that like this feature," he said. "It's also valuable to producers because they know who is watching and engaged and will want to watch in future."

Comparing Watch to YouTube, Danker said Facebook was more focused on creating that relationship between the producer, viewer and community. The social network's video strategy is tightly focused on this idea of social communities.

He offered examples of Watch shows, such as Returning the Favor -- a program that rewards local neighborhood heroes for their contributions but relies on viewers to nominate candidates from among their communities. Another show, produced by a life coach, features live interactions between the coach and her most devoted fans between episodes, allowing them to discuss issues raised in previous episodes and suggest important topics directly to her for future ones. Another show features the producer joining his fans to create each new daily show. Yet another has troubled couples discussing their issues live with viewers, getting feedback from them, and ultimately having viewers vote on whether they should stay together or break up.

Danker believes there is potential for a number of different kinds of genres to be explored using the Watch platform, citing a show by A+E Networks, a traditional cable channel, that he thinks also works on Watch.

"We're also seeding the ecosystem," said Danker, pointing out that Facebook is itself commissioning a few small shows to explore the possibilities and "uncover interesting ways to create content for the platform."

He expects to see both "niche" producers and more traditional producers, like broadcasters, find new ways to use the platform. He also stressed that groups considered "niche" can get quite big when viewers are aggregated worldwide. In addition, Facebook allows for people to find something in common and quickly develop a community around that one thing, creating an audience for certain types of content that otherwise would not be seen as viable.

"Community has value for distribution," according to Danker. "And Facebook creates these connections. Our video strategy is based on understanding what we really do well for people. And that's creating and managing these concentric circles of community -- from friends and family outwards [to more distant acquaintances and groups that share a common interest.]"

Danker also stresses that part of building a platform is finding ways to monetize it, and stresses that producers can use advertising to do that, as well as include sponsors. But for him, it all comes back to the community aspect.

He offered the final example of a photoblog called "Humans of New York," which featured interesting people in the city and told their stories. It grew to reach 18 million people, and will now launch as a video show on Watch. Danker sees that as the perfect example of the unique value proposition that Watch offers for both producers and viewers.

— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation

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