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Facebook Watch Isn’t Living Up to Its Name (bloomberg.com)
148 points by pseudolus on Jan 28, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 70 comments

So they got an exclusive deal with a Counter Strike league (ESEA?) and I decided to watch some matches... Horible experience. Just god awful. Forced chat showing, emojis everywhere, no theater mode, like 15 FPS and choppy as hell. Pure crap. I’m real interested in CSGO and flat out didn’t watch any matches till they made their way to YouTube. Idk what they spent that $1B on.

Similar experience with Dota 2 and ESL on Facebook. The experience was horrible. Viewership was bad. Doesn't seem like anyone was happy about it https://twitter.com/Slasher/status/1071863217243197440

If I recall correctly, people on Twitch streamed games from the Dota Majors/Minors and got more viewers than the Facebook stream. Then ESL started DMCA'ing streams https://www.reddit.com/r/DotA2/comments/7skt8e/did_mlpdota_j... Then Valve got involved and made a statement about the whole kerfuffle http://blog.dota2.com/2018/01/dotatv-streaming/

Yet another example of the DMCA being completely, insanely imbalanced in terms of power for those issuing take-downs, call me when anybody at ESL goes to jail for perjury.

It wasn't a great experience, but I personally felt like the outage was a loud overreaction from the community. I guess that the circumstances were perfect for outrage: Facebook is not likeable, it's a big change from twitch, and Facebook paid for exclusivity. I was fine with watching the games on Facebook, and part of me wishes they succeeded so that we wouldn't have a twitch monopoly.

It was just five or six years ago when my friends and I found Twitch website unbearable. We'd always watch twitch on vlc using live streamer http://docs.livestreamer.io/

Today, we have YouTube Live and to a much smaller extent mixer. More importantly, I'm not afraid to open Twitch on a desktop web browser. What changed? The main change is reliable 60fps streaming.

If Facebook can't do 60fps on day one, it might as well not try.

I remember asking Justin tv engineers whether they thought they could break even. They said it is more than enough to show one thirty second ad every hour (as far as I remember) to keep the lights on. But then this was before Twitch partner programs. Also we were streaming from potato quality laptop webcams. Watching 240p video with 20 second latency was an ordinary miracle.

I imagine the costs are likely much higher today. But I'm curious. Did Facebook spend a billion dollars on content deals?

The community definitely overreacted, but the experience really was pretty poor. I watched it on fb (because I like the ESL production and I don't hate facebook), but I had serious connectivity and quality problems even if I have fibre. On top of this the platform is just not that great, I can't think of a single feature that was better than Twitch.

I don't have any insights into how Facebook screwed up here, so speculating is dicey. That said, this pattern of BigCorp doing product "B" which is supposed to the the same as product "A" which is popular and from someone else, and failing miserably at it. That is a fairly common pattern. I have seen it happen at two separate companies where I worked and in both cases it was an edict from "on high" that there be a competitor product created, but nobody on the management team (and in one case the engineering team) had ever used the competitor's product, or understood why someone would use the product. The result was a product that checked all the same boxes but without any of the execution touches that made the product successful.

I could imagine someone at Facebook said, "Hey, look how much screen time Twitch gets with our users, we should do something to make that Facebook screen time instead. Let's make a Twitch clone, how hard can it be?" And gave it to a development team that had no idea why someone would spend time on Twitch. Google was pretty infamous for doing this (how many IM systems have they built now? 8?)

Interestingly, YouTube gaming is basically an attempt to fight back against Twitch, and I find YouTube streaming works far better than Twitch streaming. I just get far higher quality streams with fewer glitches. Not all edicts from on high are created equal

The technical streaming aspects work better, unfortunately trying to actually discover who is streaming games you care about is almost completely impossible to the point of absurdity.

Its been like this for years now, I don't understand how anyone at youtube can not understand how awful discoverability is for live streaming.

Not sure what the issue is? At gaming.youtube.com there is a live tab, where you select the game, on youtube.com/gaming you select the game you care about, then click the live tab.

> Google was pretty infamous for doing this (how many IM systems have they built now? 8?)

Don't get me started. I think my Google Voice / Hangouts account will be deprecated soon, or has been, and will be eliminated, or maybe not. It's not clear. It never is.

it'll probably be nearly the same thing, renamed, that does an oauth url dance that breaks 40% of the time. it'll have even fewer useful buttons, all hidden until you hover over hidden icons, and those buttons won't do anything the previous hangouts did before. there will likely be a few people that get big bonuses and promotions out of it as well, and they'll write up post-mortems from afar after they've been poached by some new vc-funded darling.

Google voice has been all but deprecated at this point. The form for buying credits has been broken for a year, and calls calls to my google voice number no longer get forwarded to my phone / google hangouts.

Mine still get forwarded just fine. I wonder what fresh hell porting my Google Voice number over to another carrier will be.

I definitely worry about this, I've had this phone number for almost 20 years now.

Can't agree with this enough. The whole CSGO community hates this deal, and it's hard to believe that ESL has made up for the lost audiences with the money from Facebook.

Although, maybe not, it's also hard to believe they manage to monetize me watching CSGO, considering I already own the game, a tower, the best mousepad, the best CS mouse, a mech keyboard, and two monitors...

It was ESL, but you're not really wrong because ESEA was purchased by ESL a few years back.


The discovery was awful too. They had a similar exclusivity deal for some Dota 2 tournaments, and I could not find the stream from the Facebook home page while it was live.

Youtube has a similar problem, It's almost impossible to figure out who the hell is actually streaming a specific game, search for streams, or even when the people you are subscribed to are streaming.

I would have forgiven most things like lower viewership if the stream itself was at least reliable. That said, Google/Facebook's requirement that you use some "real name" just goes against what gamers prefer: anonymity.

I thought Google got rid of the real name policy


They did the same thing with ESL Dota 2 tournaments, I am a pretty big Dota 2 fan, but was utterly uninterested in putting up with Facebook, and nearly everyone else I am friends with in that community, and people in the wider community felt the same way.

Everyone I know just watched other streamers stream it from the Valve in game client with their own commentary and production (Valve explicitly allows any streamer to stream any DOTA or CS game)

I suspect ESL did serious damage to their brand by essentially being absent from the e-sports scene for basically their entire audience for the last year.

Seems like a completely out of touch way to throw away a $1B.

It is really frustrating when viewership and satisfaction would be much higher on twitch


(video has no relevance here other than being an awesome csgo highlight from last night)

Sounds like the Facebook MLB Game of the week telecast, where the usual team broadcasts are superceded and the result is unwatchable. You can shut off the emoji screen by clicking the right secret option, but it resumes after every commercial break.

It's like something a teenaged Instagram influencer would design.

I saw a presentation about Facebook Watch last year where they had their stars up on stage to talk about their projects. There was a whole lot of talk about how they were inclusive of all races and genders, no talk at all of the content or what the shows were even about. I came to the conclusion that the content was probably not aimed at my demographic. Also, despite being a somewhat regular Facebook user I can't think of seeing a single one of their shows advertised on my newsfeed.

>I can't think of seeing a single one of their shows advertised on my newsfeed.

It is quite remarkable to think about it. I miss the whole encompassing chronological feed. Understand why they got rid of it.

Yet, when I watched a few episodes of the Shaq Chicken show a notification or reminder never showed on my timeline when a new episode was posted. lol

So Facebook tries to clone someone and fails. Doesn’t matter one iota. They could fund 20 of these boondoggles with the results of cloning Snapchat with runaway success. Betting $1b on a 10% chance of making $11b is a good bet if you have the bankroll, even if the result is 9 mega failures.

It really doesn't help that a product that delivers digital video content has a name that makes it sound like it's something you physically wear on your wrist to tell you what time it is.

Huh. Chalk me up to the bar on the graph of having never heard of it. Until now...

I only ever knew about it because, for a time, there was a dedicated tab in the FB app for it. And that tab ALWAYS had a 'new notification' red dot overlaid. Every single time. So obnoxious. They did the same thing with their 'Marketplace' and it's been the number one thing that has caused me to no longer even pay attention to any notification icons (within the app; notifications outside the app I had turned off long ago) from them.

Facebook always A/B tests stuff and rolls out features at god knows which pace.

I only got this button a month or so ago. And it’s annoying as hell

Me either and we're at least in good company:

> Last summer, a year after Watch went live in the U.S., half of consumers hadn’t heard of it and three-quarters hadn’t used it, according to researcher Diffusion Group

I'm surprised 25 % used it

If half of all US consumers have heard of your product I think you're doing something right

I’ve seen poster advertisements marketed to black women. (I’m in Baltimore.) It feels a little cynical to me to market to religious stay-at-home black women who use Facebook and tell them you understand them.


Having worked in media tech for the last 10 years, I can confidently say we're past the point where this is a technology problem. Short form, long form, live...it's all been solved to everyone's satisfaction (though not saying it's easy). It's all content and analytics now.

I think Facebook was counting on a "if we build it they will come" approach, but that doesn't work on me-too products. Your users won't invent the next big hit for you...not when content offerings on the internet are this mature.

I watched a few Golden Boy fights live on FB near the end of last year. And then went back to Golden Boy's FB page to watch some reruns that I'd missed.

I was thrilled to see those fights. The quality was pretty sucky but still better than not seeing them, and my connection to the internet is pretty sucky so I couldn't really complain much about that.

I like the chat going on with the live fights, it was fun to interact with other fans and Golden Boy did a pretty great job of producing the show.

It's not perfect by a long shot, and a $billion seems like a lot for what they've done so far, but I'll keep tuning into the fights and anything else that peaks my interests.

This is just the large scale version of the early Facebook employees who thought they were geniuses and went on to fail at places like Path and New Republic.

Facebook is becoming a total crap. The content is really bad and the audience too, its mostly millennials who have too much time on their hands and nothing better to do or professionals but who aren't sophisticated social media users. and their parents, of course. Facebook is dead for me and for most people I talk to. Not sure if advertising on Facebook is as effective as it used to be but I'm pretty sure advertising on Facebook is going to become a lame thing soon too.

For years now, Facebook has served one and only purpose for me: to connect with people I rarely ever speak to (like once in 5 years). If they come in town, they reach out and see if I'm willing to meet up.

For that 1% of functionality, it's great. I can't imagine using it for any other reason.

Yup i've basically always looked at it as an address book for a world where people's phone numbers and emails change regularly. Or, as a few people I know, just don't have a phone number or don't have an email they check regularly.

The quality of the content depends surely on who your friends are. Don't blame FB for that! FB is used by millions/billions all over the world. I'm always surprised by such comments, as if the whole world is the same as your little corner of it. ('the audience...it's mostly millennials..or professionals..and their parents')

The content I see on there is great, it's chatting with my friends and their pictures I choose to look at. No ads ever.

The Facebook viewing experience is so terrible for ESL's DoTA2 games it became a bit of a meme over at /r/dota2. Facebook signed a bunch of exclusive contracts but didn't think to create a good product.

Facebook strikes me as being terrible at PR and marketing. They had years of growth with constant free buzz, lots of word-of-mouth, and little need for traditional advertising or PR work. This might explain why so many people didn’t know about Watch.

FTA: "The average Facebook session lasted less than 90 seconds, according to people familiar with the matter".

How can you make money from people who are going to your site in 90 second segments? You have an ad in the beginning of your video, that's at least 5 seconds there. Assuming it's not skippable, that leaves 85 seconds at most for the rest of your video. The only kind of video that can go for 85 seconds or less are meme videos, and people who watch meme videos sure as hell don't have the patience to watch unskippable ads before watching memes.

I think its not just video for the 90 seconds.

The article frames it as "according to people familiar with the matter—while you were waiting in a checkout line, trying to avoid eye contact between subway stops, or sitting on the toilet. "

I'd argue the visits are shortlived more because their visits are driven by people clicking links, watching/viewing/reading what was sent to them and closing the window as opposed to someone goign to fb.com and browsing the feed.

Interesting co-opted behavior from Facebook itself.

People prepare to watch Netflix/Youtube/Prime in settings where they are more likely able to complete a viewing, whereas Facebook is an boredom filler to the point that most traffic generated from it has a short attention span. I'd be interested in seeing the distribution on the view times.

Me too, Facebook counts a view at 3seconds. they apparently provide a 95% metric as well to advertisers. (even that is rigged as someone can skip to the end and get it counted. (https://www.facebook.com/business/help/259313030934362) I'd love to see a comparison of those two numbers too

Well according to the article, that's exactly why they created Watch...

> Although the company accounted for an impressive 45 minutes of its average user’s day, that wasn’t in chunks big enough to send them the ever-growing number of ads at the heart of the company’s business model

> Zuckerberg and other executives decided to try to boost that number by pushing their way into a much older kind of advertising model: TV

The downside of decimating attention span rears it’s head.

Or the decline of FB ad pushing machine

I wonder what the median values look like.

I've never been tempted to try any of it. I vastly prefer YouTube or Twitch, but seeing as how terrible Facebook's own content and user policy is, I'm unsure as to how anyone even would be interested. The regular video feature of the Facebook site is borderline unusable, clicking on a video in Safari and even in Chrome just causes the whole tab to become unresponsive for minutes sometimes until the full screen player opens, it's impossible to change settings often and the entire site just starts dying if you scroll around a timeline for like 10 minutes. It's not a good user experience, tying a video sharing platform directly into that taints it from the get go. I understand that they were trying some sort of cross-pollination but at least the YouTube website is performant. And Facebook's timeline ordering and content curation is terrible so it's not very inviting. Mainly it seems like they took all the bad features that drive creators insane on other platforms and bolted it to their own.


I'm following Skam Austin on Facebook Watch, which seems to have been stuck in limbo for half a year. They announced it would get a second season right after the first season ended in June last year, but it's been radio silence since. The only way we know that the second season is happening now is because of casting calls.

This article pretty much confirms what I've been thinking: The Silicon Valley way of doing things, throwing stuff on the wall, waiting for engineering to create a feature, drip-launching features, infighting between VPs of this and that, and fighting for budget meets the TV production side of things, which is completely different. A TV production runs on a planned schedule, coordinating a large amount of people together for casting actors, creating sets, rehearsing scenes, gathering a lot of extras, and shooting.

A TV production is either go or no go, you commit to the schedule or you don't. It seems like Facebook Watch has to learn some lessons from Hollywood on this one.

I would watch more video on facebook if they brought back the facebook live map feature; it made content easy to find.

It is one of the few times I can recall where a major feature/product simply disappeared and no one has a reason as to why or even a simple announcement.

It's ridiculous. I remember being able to track live events by just looking on a map near where they were happening: hurricanes, protests and festivals for example. That feature's just gone, now.

This is probably better delivered as a separate app - it is probably competing for real estate with a lot of other fb properties.

I had no idea that this was even a thing. Did they forget to advertise it?

took me a while to realize Facebook Watch is actually something like YouTube. thought it was talking about Facebook releasing something like an Apple Watch!

shows where my mind is: I was hoping it was an independent journalism outlet keeping tabs on watching the unethical behaviors of Facebook.

did not know this feature existed clicked on it and facebook algorithms has a surpassingly large number of videos tailored to my tastes ended up watching a British musician explain the 2 necked string instrument she plays that is between a ukele and lute. sold.

Hey Facebook... If you're listening. For only $100M I'll launch a video feature and I will guarantee the same number of users for 1/10th of the cost!

I really don't see how consumer hardware like this could ever be a clamoring success compared to what the smartphone saturated market has been.

The Facebook watch is not a hardware device. It refers to their video feed service.

Ahh thanks, I was unsure because the article mentioned it being pitcehd to advertisers at CES, so I figured it was hardware.

So they want to compete with other services that are burning cash trying to provide content to ensnare users like NFLX?

To what does the "like this" in your comment refer?

can anyone explain how sometbing like this can cost 1b?

Buying content.

they should launch a reality show about themselves!

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