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Why the latest updates to Facebook Video should have YouTube worried

Omar Akhtar

At yesterday’s F8 conference, Facebook revealed a slew of updates to its video offerings that should give YouTube a serious run for its money.

Until now, most people had been viewing Facebook and YouTube as two social media networks that were used in different ways. YouTube was where you went to search for videos produced by professionals, or independent creators looking for a large general audience such as vloggers and amateur comedians. Facebook is where you went to see personal videos uploaded by friends and family.

However, Facebook has clearly indicated that it has higher aspirations for its video offerings. Over the last few months it has been touting the tremendous growth it has been getting in video views (now up to 3 billion a day) and the number of brands that are starting to embrace it as the primary video content delivery channel. Facebook doesn’t just want the amateurs, it wants the pros, and to that end, it announced several new features to its video product at F8:

  1. Embeddable Video: The biggest advantage YouTube had over Facebook was the ability it gave publishers to embed its videos on other websites and blogs, extending the reach of those videos far beyond the YouTube platform. Now, Facebook is offering the same embed capabilities to its videos, and arguably better analytics to track their performance.
  2. Scheduling Controls: With a new API, publishers now have control over when a video goes live and when it comes down. Previously, to take a video down from Facebook, it had to be deleted completely. Now, through simple tagging, those videos can continue to stay on the platform, but be activated and deactivated according to the publisher’s plan. In addition, multiple videos can be uploaded to a Facebook page at the same time, but they can all be set to display at different times, saving users from viewing flooded news feeds.
  3. Targeting: The new API also allows uploaders to set controls for who views the video, targeting users by age, gender or geo location. For example, a brand could show one version of an uploaded video to users on the East coast, and another version to users on the West, while having both versions uploaded to the platform. That’s an extremely useful feature for global content/social marketing teams who would want to segment their audiences and create content that is specifically engaging for them. Bonus feature: Uploaders can add on sub-titles in different languages for the same video.
  4. Increased upload capacity: Facebook has increased the limit for video size to 1.5GB, which is approximately a 45 minute video with normal resolution. This allows not just longer videos to be posted, but also an increase in quality. If Facebook wanted to stay within the personal video realm, increasing the upload capacity to 1.5Gb wouldn’t have made sense. This clearly signals the company’s desire to host content created by the pros, which means more content from brands, more clips from TV networks, and more content from amateur or independent filmmakers. 

That last feature is an especially important part of what makes Facebook a worthy challenger to YouTube. YouTube has long been the domain of independent video content producers who don't have a film studio or TV network to give them an audience. And YouTube has rewarded them by sharing ad revenues, and giving them the exposure they needed to land bigger deals. But there have been increasing complaints about YouTube’s policy of taking over half the ad revenue generated from these videos, leading some content creators to rebel by forming competing video networks or simply hosting videos on their own platforms.

If Facebook can offer a monetization deal that’s even slightly more generous than YouTube’s, it could successfully woo the top YouTube content creators over to its platform. According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s already trying to do that. While Facebook’s product management director Fidji Simo declined to comment on what Facebook’s monetization offer would look like, she did say the company was slowly testing out several models and was working towards rolling one out soon for creators. At the rate at which Facebook is going, you can bet we’ll be seeing that monetization model sooner rather than later.