THE RISE OF THE SOCIAL ORIGINAL: Will episodic content finally take off on social media?

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Last week and Facebook relaunched MTV’s Real World via its Watch Tab. A few months ago, Instagram introduced IGTV, focusing on long-form creator videos. It’s clear that social is in an all-out battle to own the mega enterprise that has become mobile video viewership. And rightfully so; mobile video viewing accounts for 75% of digital video views and social networking is the #2 use of a mobile device after audio. It’s only natural that these two forces combined could take over the entire mobile landscape.

But are we really ready to watch shows on social?

When you look at the numbers, it’s clear that watching episodic, traditional-TV programming on social networks is still nascent. But the intent is there. People do appear to be ready to watch their favorite shows on social. In fact, eMarketer found that 47% of 18 to 24-year-olds would do just that.

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However, social networks are struggling to find their niche in the on-demand video viewing world. Take Facebook Watch for example. Though viewership has increased, going to the Watch Tab still isn’t a habit of its regular users – about 50 Million people watch about 1 minute of Facebook Watch content a month. For reference, Facebook has over a Billion active users, so this represents just 5% of its network. And while there’s promise with IGTV’s focus on creators, it hasn’t maintained the success of its early weeks in the app store, with sharp declines in app downloads week over week.

So, what gives?

In a world where…

  • Time spent on social networks supersedes much other time on a mobile device
  • Mobile video viewing is at an all-time high
  • People are willing to watch their favorite shows on social

…why hasn’t it clicked for any social platform other than YouTube?

 

It’s the content. Up until now the episodes and content just haven’t been that amazing. Yes, New England was enthralled by the Facebook Watch show Tom [Brady] vs. Time, but holistically the options presented by the networks have failed to stand out. They are simply regurgitations of shows that already exist on YouTube or on other channels.

If we can take anything away from the rise of Netflix and Hulu, it’s that the shows have to be nothing short of captivating. They have to be The Handmaid’s Tale shocking, Making A Murderer buzzworthy, or Master of None hilarious. If you want to change a user’s behavior from causally finding videos in-feed to going to a social network as a destination for episodic content, that content has got to be good.

And this isn’t just our theory. Facebook has done its own study to understand what TV Viewers and Streaming Viewers prefer and the content itself is #1 on that list:

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For this reason, we actually predict that Snap Originals may create a halo effect for the entire category. With Originals, Snapchat took the time to partner with publishers to find writers, producers, and actors that will make its videos binge-worthy.

For example, the 12 originals they’ve announced leverage the same talent that brought us Stranger Things, Friday Night Lights, and even Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The new show Class of Lies comes from the mind of one of the writers on Riverdale. These are creators who have developed some of the most popular shows for the Millennial and Z generations. When you put some of the best film/TV talent together with the perfect format, there’s bound to be magic.

In time, this magic will have a trickle effect on viewership for the rest of the platforms. If we’re used to watching shows on Snapchat, how long before we’re used to viewing all of social media as a destination for episodic content? It didn’t take that long for Stories to catch on, either.

We’ve seen this before. According to Adweek, Netflix is having a “halo effect” on traditional cable shows. Riverdale saw live-plus-7 (the live airing plus seven days) ratings jump 60% in season two.

In summary, the concept of the social original isn’t going anywhere. Success is inevitable in this category, and as advertisers we’ll be remiss if we don’t start to develop our own muscle memory. We must begin understanding what works and why. So when Instagram, Snapchat or any of the platforms start winning Emmy’s, we won’t be shocked, and our brands will be at the forefront.

So, if I never go back to #boston this is likely where you’ll find me. #park #lazienki #islandpalace #gardens #warsaw #parksofinstagram

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Did I already post this in my album yesterday? Yes. Does it deserve its own post? Also yes. @59rivoli #stairs #parisjetaime #woot #AdventureswithAandA

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Not sure what kind of #Saturdaynight could be better? ———————————Buffalo chickpea #pizza & #martinis #vegan

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When @lucybvizsla was a pup, she was somehow cuter than she is today. Love you boo bear! #nationalpuppyday #vizslapuppy #vizslagram #ilovemypuppy

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Saw a post about #nedaawarenessweek and wanted everyone to know that they are amazing just the way they are. LOVE yourself. #neda TY for the inspiration, @sbkelley9

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So #thankful for so many things this thanksgiving but first and foremost for my amazing pup @lucybvizsla who helped me get a #personalbest at today’s #turkeytrot ❤️🍁🐶#runningwithmydog

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Don’t hate me for posting everything I eat. #sorrynotsorry #pasta #food #blackbeanpasta with tomato, pepper & spinach sauce. #yummy

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Hulu’s 2017 Emmys First Paves the Way for Social Programming

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I’ll admit it, I always use the Emmy’s as a way of validating my TV-watching habits. And while they’ll never give me an excuse to watch the Real Housewives of <insert city>, at least this year my taste for The Handmaid’s Talewas not only confirmed by TV’s highest honors, it made Emmy history by making Hulu the first digital platform to bring home a top series award.

This is no easy feat in this golden age of TV, where Game of Thrones producers spend an average of $10 Million dollars per episode. Today’s viewers expect dragons to look real, they expect authentic drama, nonstop action and big-time celebrities. When viewing is more on-demand than ever, and supply is the highest its been in TV history, viewer sophistication and expectations have clearly never been higher.

If I’d written this in 2014, I might have told the three big  networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) to watch out for Starz and HBO in 2016. But in looking out for 2018, it’s Netflix and Amazon who need to step up their game, because digital programming will not stop with Hulu. #SocialisComing.

We’ve already seen YouTube, Facebook and Twitter not only rejigger their platforms to make video more prominent, they’ve also dipped their toes into original programming. From Facebook’s Strangers to Twitter’s upcoming launch of AM to DM, its live morning show with Buzzfeed News, social is ready to rock the on-demand video viewing world.

Facebook in particular is poised to revolutionize original programming and on-demand viewing with episodes in the 15-minute range (right in line with user preferences on mobile devices); a brand new Watch tab on its mobile experience; and ways to share, co-watch and comment on programming that are simply unavailable with traditional TV networks. Twitter and YouTube’s options aren’t too shabby either. They’re both focusing not just on great original programming, but on original programming that’s endemic to their platforms. Where do you go for real-time updates? Twitter. Where do you go for the funniest clips? YouTube. These are smart strategies that have the potential to leave other digital platforms in the dust.

Even more promising for social programming are the lower barriers to entry for creators themselves. Facebook’s Watch inquiry page suggests it will consider a wide range of content creators from individuals (read: influencers), to pubishers, to sports bloggers, artists and beyond. And they stand to make money off of each new show they add, with ad breaks and branded content.

Obviously influencers having their own shows is nothing new for the likes of YouTube, but this opens up the floodgates for Facebook to create its own niche that perfectly balances the expectation of highly-produced TV shows with the immediacy of raw and unfiltered influencer videos. Something that won’t take long to take off.

With more ways to resonate with audiences in formats that are untouchable for linear TV, social original programming will be the star of 2018. Stay tuned.

That’s a wrap! Animals unharmed only loved on this production: 🐐🐶🐰🐷🐦🐌🐝🦋🦄. @karenbernhardt & @yendormai & #lacroix for life.

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