The State of Social Video in 2018

October 15, 2018

‘Pivot to Video’ was a phrase thrown around by a lot of publishers and broadcasters in 2017, so this year, more than ever, it’s interesting to see how the dust has settled: what does that phrase actually mean in real terms – and to what extent has it really happened?

In truth, the leading companies today are those that started with a “video-first” strategy, where there was nothing else to pivot from. It reminds me of the “mobile-first” strategy that was the cornerstone of company policy back when there was a mad scramble to keep up with the explosive growth of smartphones. Whilst the “mobile-first” approach resulted in the incredible success stories of Snapchat, Uber, Instagram et al., only time will tell who the biggest “video-first” winners will be. Part of the move towards video resulted from the success of companies like BuzzFeed, Vice and Mashable – all names synonymous with social video. In reality, those players are now the incum bents, and companies like Jungle Creations, Media Chain and LADbible are the new disruptors. Many of these disruptor businesses, originally built on the back of Facebook video, are now becoming more cross-platform.

There are a couple of general themes I’ve noticed so far in 2018; publishers are increasingly looking beyond viewership towards engagement, and everyone’s investing in creating original content. With the launch of YouTube Premium, Facebook Watch and most recently IGTV, the goal for many is clear: tap into platforms’ willingness to pay for premium, original content. Here are three broad trends that anyone in the social video space, or looking to enter it, should be paying attention to:

1. Data

There has never been so much data to measure and learn from. To put this into context, today we track almost 5 billion videos across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch and Dailymotion and have created in-depth profiles for over 12 million cross-platform publishers. A unique selling point of social video is access to comprehensive, real-time data and the extent to which you can understand viewer consumption habits – particularly versus traditional media which typically relies on more limited panel-based forms of measurement. At Tubular Labs, we help social video publishers harness this wealth of data, which enables them to better understand how to grow their social video audience and to make informed content decisions. Publishers can use a data-driven approach to identify content trends and opportunities to shape their social video strategy. For example, our data shows that on YouTube, kids entertainment is thriving across most markets in Europe, growing 2.1x year on year in Italy, 1.4x year on year in Germany and 1.2x year on year in the UK. Whereas on Facebook, we see that Food & Drink and Health & Fitness grew across most European markets. This type of insight is invaluable for publishers investing in content.

2. Language

Social video publishers wanting to capture attention in Europe and beyond need to be thinking about language, which means having a language production and tagging strategy in place. Looking at the creators that generated more than 1 million views. In June 2018, in addition to the 62.7K creators that publish English-speaking videos, there were 19.1K Spanish-speaking, 3.2K French-speaking, 1.9K German-speaking and 1.8K Italian-speaking creators. Our data shows that increasingly younger audiences watch videos on YouTube in English because not enough creators are producing enough engaging content in their own language. This trend is particularly prominent in the Netherlands, where last year 54% of the top YouTube videos from creators based in the country were uploaded in English, compared to just 37% in Dutch. Germany follows, where last year 30% of all YouTube videos from the top German-based creators were in English. What does this mean for publishers, brands, and creators? If you are looking to connect with your target audience then you need to be aware of what language is most suitable for your market. If that target audience skews younger in your desired region, then you may be able to engage with them via English speaking content. But always test the market with a range of content to see what works for you, whether that’s working with a native-speaking influencer, using multi-language closed captions, or creating original market-specific content from scratch.

3. Branded content

Another area to watch in social video is branded content. According to Tubular Labs DealMaker data, in 2017 there were more than 24 billion views of sponsored video published in the US; which equates to over $1.2 billion in media value. This number is projected to grow to more than $8 billion over the next few years as the industry matures. We’re seeing considerable growth of sponsored content on Facebook, especially across key European markets. In 2018 in the UK alone, we estimate that branded content on the platform will be worth $311 million, up 114% from $145 million last year. In Germany, France and Italy, the number of views generated from branded content videos on Facebook has more than tripled within a year. We’ve also been able to pinpoint which genres have experienced growth. For UK sponsored content, the Science & Tech genre grew a massive 2,100% on Facebook, whereas in Germany, Kids’ Entertainment experienced the highest growth on Facebook at 14,791%. This kind of data is useful for both brands and media companies active in the branded content space. With growth and interest skyrocketing, branded content represents a huge opportunity for publishers. The media companies dominating this space are perfect examples of companies that moved fast and adapted quickly to capture the attention and imagination of new audiences on Facebook. However this space isn’t restricted to digital first players: traditional players are experimenting too, partnering with brands to share content to their engaged audiences. All publishers should take note and actively explore how they can enhance brand awareness, brand engagement and ultimately revenue via sponsored video.

The power of content is what we have built our business on. The places in which people consume it may have changed, but the appetite for quality content and great stories, remains. At Fremantle we work with our broadcast partners to create thriving global communities around our shows, across multiple platforms and in multiple territories. From uploading clips, to driving conversation and debate on Twitter or providing backstage access with Instagram – we decided early on that these platforms were an opportunity for our shows, not a threat. Harnessing the engagement of audiences on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have been central to the success of some of our biggest formats in recent years – it’s no longer acceptable or wise to ‘forget’ about fans while your show is off-air. We know from the communities we’ve built that there’s a very real commercial benefit to keeping lines of communication open. This year, Britain’s Got Talent became the first entertainment channel in Europe to break 10 million subscribers on YouTube – an impressive milestone. Whilst keeping these communities active and engaged year-round on these platforms, we also use them to extend the reach of our programme brands. Global brands such as Got Talent have captured the imagination of audiences online, often proving more popular outside the territory they were originally broadcast in. For example, a clip of an Asia’s Got Talent audition from winner Sacred Riana, recently become the most popular video on Facebook – worldwide. We have strong relationships with all these platforms, they want our content and we want their consumers to be able to see our content. Our relationship with YouTube began over ten years ago, at a time when content creators were struggling with the role the emerging platforms could play in their business strategy. Fremantle took a bold approach and embraced the virality of that iconic performance by Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent – not just reaching viewers in the UK but garnering a worldwide audience. Since then we have continued to work with YouTube opening official channels for new shows and fostering and engaging communities on a global level.


The challenge for production companies such as Fremantle is that Facebook is only just starting to roll out their Watch tab in more territories than the US – until now we have not been able to produce original branded content for Facebook with IP at its heart at scale. There is currently a lot of content on the platform funded by brands, but this generally revolves around specific campaigns for social media, and often involves a mandatory media buy. We look forward to the time that we can create bespoke content for brands that lives on Facebook but has the ability to scale beyond the platform.



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