Home >Industry >Facebook vs YouTube: The video wars
In September 2014, YouTube’s market share for online video fell from 58% to 56%, while Facebook grew from 24% to 33%. Photo: Bloomberg
In September 2014, YouTube’s market share for online video fell from 58% to 56%, while Facebook grew from 24% to 33%. Photo: Bloomberg

Facebook vs YouTube: The video wars

YouTube has found a formidable rival in Facebook in the online video market

After a decade of being the unquestioned leader in the online video market, YouTube, the Google-owned service, has found a formidable rival in Facebook.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced “customization and control" tools for video publishers. In a blog post announcing the new features, product manager Anaid Gomez-Ortigoza said: “We’re building tools to help video publishers grow their businesses on Facebook, and we’re excited to... introduce enhancements to our video upload system and a new Video Library. The enhanced video upload flow gives page owners customized distribution options for videos on Facebook, while the new Video Library is a simple, centralized place to manage videos."

This new update, rolling out globally in the coming weeks, aligns the Facebook video publishing experience much more closely with what YouTube already offers its video publishers.

The Facebook market

Facebook’s initiation in video was no accident. Since 2013, it has been introducing new features, user-friendly tools and working with content creators to make its video service a contender with sole rival YouTube.

However, Facebook’s video potential became apparent in the summer of 2014 when users shared more than 17 million videos for the ALS ice bucket challenge. Since then, there has been no looking back.

In September 2014, Facebook’s unique desktop video views were 491 million, up 38.5% year-on-year (y-o-y), according to data released by comScore. YouTube’s audience was 831 million, but its growth for the year was a mere 4.8%. During the same period, YouTube’s market share for online video fell from 58% to 56%, while Facebook grew from 24% to 33%. In November 2014, Facebook video hit a milestone when for the first time more videos were uploaded to the social network than the number of posts containing YouTube links, according to social media analytics firm Socialbakers.

“People are consuming video on Facebook like crazy, so that creates an opportunity for brand marketers. Marketers today are seeing a challenge getting their video content discovered. The news feed is the place people go to discover what matters to them," David Fischer, Facebook’s vice-president of global business and marketing partnerships was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.

The YouTube market

Launched in May 2005,YouTube has dominated the online video market for nearly a decade, but advertisers have wondered if YouTube would ever be able to contribute to Google’s bottom line. And now with Facebook’s growing presence in videos, there has been growing concern among advertisers about competition from the social media company. But given YouTube’s strong performance in the second quarter, these concerns have been greatly allayed. The company saw its mobile watch time double since June 2014. While overall watch time grew more than 60% y-o-y, the service’s fastest growth rate in the last two years. The earnings report also mentioned that YouTube saw its average viewing session surpass more than 40 minutes, up more than 50% y-o-y, proving that it is still a force to be reckoned with.

Much of this growth has been attributed to YouTube’s strategies over the past couple of years that are designed to make watching the online service feel more like watching TV. YouTube has done this by working with creators to help them produce higher quality content, adding auto-play features, as well as improving the mobile experience, said Paul Verna, a senior analyst for eMarketer, while talking to Wall Street Journal. “This speaks to the success of their transformation from a repository of very hard-to-find and very hard-to-monetize user-uploaded content to more professionally produced and easier to monetize content," Verna said.

On Wednesday, YouTube hired Susanne Daniels, former president of programming for MTV, to be the vice-president of YouTube Originals. YouTube Originals is the latest big push from the video platform, which recently launched standalone apps for YouTube Gaming and YouTube Kids. Analysts say that creating a vice-president position is a step toward prioritizing original, professionally-produced programming on a site that initially lent itself to amateur videos.

The company is also building a new ad-free subscription service besides enhancing its support and financing for so-called “YouTube stars"—video creators that have found millions of fans via the streaming service.

Last, but definitely not the least, the company has introduced 360 degree video ads on YouTube. According to Google’s blogpost, 360 degree video ads let you engage your audience in an entirely new way. Available currently in Chrome and the YouTube app on Android and iOS, viewers can explore every angle of the videos by dragging their mouse or moving their phone to shift their POV (persistence of vision) 360 degrees—up, down, left or right. “360 video ads are a truly mobile-first video ad product… as they unlock new opportunities for your brands to engage with consumers on YouTube," posted JR Futrell, product manager, YouTube Ads.

Facebook versus YouTube

According to digital media analysts, YouTube’s estimated 1 billion users come to the site exclusively for its video content every day. This gives YouTube creators a dependable audience base. For example, 68% of top YouTube creators posted content on both YouTube and Facebook in May this year, but videos consistently garnered more views on YouTube than on the social media platform, according to Tubular Labs data cited by The Wall Street Journal.

Facebook’s audience is first and foremost a social audience. However, videos on Facebook receives 4 billion views per day, according to company’s earnings note last quarter.

Additionally, YouTube allows creators to monetize their content. The video streaming giant allows creators to keep 55% of revenue generated from ads, allowing creators to profit from their videos. Although Facebook announced plans to introduce the same ad revenue split, it is yet to roll out the program fully. Creators thus have little incentive to develop content specifically for Facebook and its evolving video format.

The battle continues!

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