Facebook Watch, the platform’s destination for longer-form video, has yet to roll out in the U.K., but that hasn’t stopped food video giant Tastemade creating “Feral Cook,” a five-minute show for Watch in the U.K. According to the publisher, two more shows for the U.K. market are in development and slated to launch in a few weeks.
“Feral Cook” is halfway through its first season of six episodes, which air each Sunday. The show, created by the Tastemade UK team of approximately 10 staffers, is hosted by Henry David and follows five men who cook dishes like burgers and pizzas off abandoned car parts in the woods.
“It was important for this not to be a U.S. show that’s shipped overseas, but a U.K. concept that local audiences would be excited about,” said Oren Katzeff, Tastemade’s head of programming. To accentuate that sense of Britishness, in the first episode the group makes bows and arrows to pay homage to folk legend Robin Hood before dining on Robin Hood burgers.
When contacted for this story, Facebook said there’s no update on when Watch will officially roll out internationally. Multiple publisher sources say Facebook has told them to expect Watch in the U.K. this summer, although the date has been moved in the past.
In lieu of the Watch tab, U.K. viewers can find “Feral Cook,” and other Watch shows, in the news feed or on the Tastemade UK Facebook page, which has around 2 million followers, while the U.S. page has nearly 29 million followers. The “Feral Cook” page has 21,000 followers. The first three episodes of the show have each had around 1.5 million views and around 50 shares.
“Video viewing in the news feed is a fleeting experience,” Katzeff said. “Taking that out and into Watch means we are seeing longer-form viewership, even in these first few episodes.”
Facebook’s ambition to make a separate destination for video so that people spend longer on the platform seems to be paying off. The first episode of U.S. Tastemade show “Frankie’s World” was promoted in the news feed and on the Watch page of another one of its shows, “Struggle Meals,” which features the same presenter. The videos on the Watch page had six times the number of engagements and views as in the feed, according to Katzeff.
“Feral Cook” is being monetized by mid-roll ads, but the publisher is in talks with brands about product integration for its upcoming shows. In the U.S., Tastemade had six Watch shows funded by Facebook and an additional three funded by sponsorship and mid-roll. Six months after the launch of Watch in the U.S., few of the 50 shows from launch have been picked up for a second season, according to Adweek.
“The success of Watch depends on Facebook’s ability to drive general viewership to the platform and make sure there’s a business model outside of brand sponsorship,” Katzeff said. “A million views on a video means that mid-roll becomes meaningful, but we’re not at the point where that monetization is robust enough.”
Lack of monetization and the Watch tab are the key reasons why so few U.K. publishers have rolled out their own Watch shows so far. “When Watch is available in the U.K., it will be more of an incentive for publishers to develop original content to leverage advertiser interest,” said Katie Manor, head of paid social worldwide for MediaCom. Arguably, without the Watch tab in the U.K., audiences are likely to be from the U.S., even for U.K. shows.
Hearst has multiple Watch shows that are doing well in the U.S., but in the U.K., its brands don’t have enough scale to make Watch a priority, according to Duncan Chater, chief brand officer for Hearst UK. This will only exacerbate, said Manor, as the need for paid reach in the news feed increases as Facebook puts more emphasis on content from friends and family.
From a user-experience perspective, Facebook’s slow international roll-out of Watch makes sense. “The feed is algorithms and science, while Watch is art,” Katzeff said. “Combining the two has to be done very thoughtfully with smart, surgical precision.”
Image: Tastemade UK via Facebook