Facebook cares a lot about video.
It has paid publishers to broadcast live video and prioritized those videos in News Feed. It’s paying filmmakers to create TV-style, kick-back shows that have their own special section inside the app, called Watch. And it’s selling numerous types of video ads, including pre-roll and mid-roll ads. Executives and analysts mentioned video (“watch,” “live video,” etc.) more than 50 times on the company’s Q3 earnings call.
But for all the effort Facebook makes when it comes to video, there’s one key thing missing: Metrics that might help us understand if its video efforts are working.
The company used to share total video views — meaning that someone caught a video in their stream for at least three seconds, even if they didn’t intend to watch it — but stopped sharing that metric in early 2016. It said at the time that 500 million people watched video on Facebook every day, but hasn’t updated that number in two years. Facebook doesn’t break out video ad revenue, or share any other way to measure its video business from a revenue standpoint.
Put simply: We’ve never had a good way to measure Facebook video.
That’s very un-Facebook like. The company usually loves to broadcast its massive engagement numbers — like how many people use Instagram Stories, or how many business have created pages on the network. It’s surprising that an effort as major as video wouldn’t be documented publicly in the same way.
This doesn’t mean Facebook’s video efforts aren’t going well, of course. It’s tough to imagine they aren’t, considering that most digital publishers, and many traditional content creators, are still making Facebook video regularly.
But it’s worth listening for an update on Wednesday when the company releases Q4 and year-end earnings after the markets close. Video has been a big focus for the past two years, and with Facebook’s efforts around Watch and original programming, it’s not going to slow up anytime soon. It would be nice to know how it’s going.
A few things to look for:
- Speaking of video, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently stepped down from Disney’s board of directors — a decision made to avoid a conflict of interest as Facebook gets deeper and deeper into original video content and programming. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, meanwhile, sits on Facebook’s board, and he could be a candidate to step down for the same reason Sandberg left Disney. Facebook approves board directors at its annual meeting this spring, so don’t expect Facebook to bring up Hastings’ role on the earnings call, but it will be worth listening to see if Sandberg or CEO Mark Zuckerberg discuss Facebook’s competition with more traditional media companies and how it has evolved.
- Like most tech companies, Facebook has a lot of money overseas — roughly $12.9 billion as of Sept. 30, and likely higher by the end of Q4. Expect that Facebook’s Q4 profits were impacted by the one-time repatriation tax on that cash, which was implemented as part of the new tax code adopted late last year. Look for Facebook to point that out on Wednesday, especially if its EPS or profit numbers come in lower than initially expected. Investors will also be listening to hear what Facebook plans to do with all that cash now that it’s more readily available.
- Don’t expect all the talk about Facebook’s News Feed changes to impact any of its key user numbers — those changes were made after the quarter had ended. But you can expect analysts to ask Facebook about them nonetheless.
- Analysts expect Facebook to report profits of $1.95 per share on revenue of $12.54 billion for the quarter, according to Yahoo Finance. RBC Capital’s Mark Mahaney believes that Facebook added 50 million new monthly users last quarter, which would bring the company’s total to 2.12 billion, up from 2.07 billion in Q3.