During the pandemic year, video has become one of the most important sources of entertainment and source of learning for consumers. In an exclusive interview, Mr Paras Sharma – Director, Media Partnerships at Facebook India, explains why Videos dominate Facebook and other Digital Platforms.
Excerpts from the Interview
Facebook India’s overall video strategy for the country and the vision.
Facebook is not just a place to watch a video — it's a way to watch it. It brings the core tenets of a social network — conversation and connections — to video. Given its predominant role in driving online consumption and social experiences in the country, video forms an important part of our India strategy.
Over the past year, video has become one of the most important sources of entertainment and learning. Video strategy for India is truly reflective of the width of consumer tastes in the country be it Entertainment, Sports, Music, Movies, or News.
We are investing in forging partnerships to bring culturally relevant, of-the-moment videos across sports, entertainment, news and lifestyle. Facebook has become the new way of watching cricket and to cater to cricket fans, we have partnered with ICC for premium match content and in-play moments from this year’s biggest cricket property, ICC T20 World Cup which starts later this month.
We have also strived to build more connected communities around music and entertainment as a whole by enabling people to express themselves and helping artists and fans to connect in deeper, more authentic ways. We have partnered with some of the top music labels like T-Series Music, Zee Music Company, Tips Music, Sony Music, Universal Music, Times Music, Speed Records, Yash Raj Films, and Saregama as our partners as well as leading Music aggregators. Moreover, artists and music composers are using our platform to engage with fans. Popular artists from the industry including Himesh Reshammiya, Stebin Ben, Gurnam Bhullar, and Ritviz, are using the platform to unveil new songs on Instagram and Facebook.
What is Facebook doing in India to enhance the user experience through its video platforms?
Facebook is deeply entrenched in the cultural fabric of India. Over the past years, we have seen the way people have used our platform to reach out, be there for one another, share happiness and celebrate together. In India, we have invested in Movies, Music, and Cricket to drive engagement and give our community what they want. Our video surface, Facebook ‘Watch’ is built with the belief that watching a video can help you connect more deeply with people. More than 1.25 billion people visit Watch every month globally to discover and share videos from millions of creators and publishers and India is one of the leading markets for Watch.
Moreover, we’re always listening to and taking inspiration from what our community wants and innovating with ‘India-first’ offerings such as Reels and Live Rooms. We introduced Reels in India last year. It is an experience that gives anyone the ability to create short-form, edited videos and be a creator on a global stage. We see Reels as a core part of the future of entertainment on Instagram and an average of over 6 million Reels are produced in India every day (last three months). To further enhance the video experience for our users, we recently started testing the ability for Instagram creators in the country to choose to have their Reels recommended on Facebook and also launched the ability for people to create and watch Reels on Facebook.
Facebook Lives have played an important role over the past year and a half, as the world continues to connect virtually. In fact, in a single week in March last year, there was a 60% rise in video views on a week-on-week basis in India. As a result of this, we launched ‘Live Rooms’, a way to go Live with up to 3 people on Instagram, first in India in December 2020.
The pandemic has accelerated digital content consumption. What are some of the trends that you saw during this period?
Since March last year, we have seen more and more people accessing our platforms, and we continue to explore ways to provide content that is engaging for our consumers with video content leading the way. Our consumer survey in partnership with Boston Consulting Group told us that digital adoption and online shopping in India had accelerated by 2-3 years in the country within months of the pandemic. Now, more than ever, people are using social media to discover connections, communities, and brands.
Creativity thrived on Facebook with DIY (Artkala4u), arts and crafts as well as comedy to keep people entertained. We observed that some genres were more visible than others including food and fitness through creators including Sanjoyt Keer (Your Food Lab), Hebbar’s Kitchen, Fittr, to name a few.
We have also seen an evolution in music-related content consumption over the past year and a half. The music community including artists and composers use our platforms to engage with their fans as well as raise funds for social causes via events such as I for India, Oru Kuralaai, and We For India on our platform. In fact, on World Music Day this year, we partnered with over 95 artists, singers, and music composers across languages and genres to come and #MakeMusicTogether for the whole week on Facebook.
Our platforms have been a key medium of engagement for sports enthusiasts too. On Facebook, fans are connecting with others having similar interests to form sports communities, start conversations, watch game videos together, and more. As India bagged its highest ever tally of medals at the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, Indian fans topped the chart of countries that cheered the loudest and drove maximum conversations on Facebook. According to ICC, the India-New Zealand final in Southampton in June this year was the most-watched on average across all series that were part of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship (WTC).
We also saw more and more people coming together online to celebrate festivals. Communities across the country such as Ayyanthole Desam Pulikkali Samghataka Samithi, which was featured in our recent Onam campaign, kept the spirit of the festival alive by performing the traditional Pulikali (tiger dance) on FB Live amidst lockdown restrictions in Kerala.
The key thing to note here is that this behaviour existed to an extent before as well; however, the pandemic accelerated it. And we believe these trends are here to stay.
What will your key focus areas be, to grow your presence in India further?
Rooted deeply in the cultural fabric of India, we will continue to bolster our regional partnerships. We have partnered with Filmfare as well as other broadcast partners including Viacom 18, Zee, Sony, Shemaroo, ETV, and PTC who regularly post clips of popular TV shows and movies in multiple languages to engage with users on Facebook. We also have partnerships with top music labels including T-Series Music, Speed Records, Yash Raj Films, Saregama, and others, for music licensing, enabling users to unleash expression in creative ways in short videos, stories, and other formats on Facebook and Instagram and we will continue to focus on exciting collaborations across sports, entertainment, news and lifestyle to help unlock more engaging experiences for users across demographics.
We also remain focused on supporting our partners and creators to diversify their revenues and expand their presence on our platforms. We aim to introduce more offerings for our Facebook community to connect with their friends and families.
How are you helping influencers, bloggers, and creators on Facebook and family of apps?
Content creators build vibrant communities on Facebook and our goal is to be the best place for them to grow and make a living. We want to support the wide range of needs to support all creators, whether they’re just starting out or already have an established brand.
And we plan to do this by developing a range of creative tools that democratize expression. Reels are a good example; the way it has democratized creativity. It has created a new generation of short-form creators from all across India. We have been engaging with creators consistently to first inform them about the functionality of Reels, sharing best practices, setting up vertical-specific workshops, facilitating mentoring from established creators from India and abroad, and running creator programs like ‘Born on Instagram’ which have a special emphasis on Reels.
We also host events specifically for creators where they can not only learn from us about what’s new but also network and learn from each other. In fact, on September 30, we hosted Creator Day, our biggest event for creators in India to date, to help them build their careers, support their wellbeing, and connect with peers.
Whether creators want to connect with brands, get paid for their content, or earn money directly from their fans, we are committed to building the right mix of tools to help them accomplish their goals.
How does the medium help content creators monetise their content, as well as increase their own ad revenue?
We are investing in a range of tools across our platforms to support creators’ various needs and ambitions, whether they’re just getting started or building their brand across various Facebook apps. On Facebook, we want creators to have the tools and support they need to earn money and thrive. From ads, to brand partnerships, to premium content and support from people, creators can earn money with a growing variety of products best suited to the content they share and the communities they’ve built. Video creators can now earn money from videos as short as one minute long, with a minimally interrupted ad running at 30 seconds. We also recently launched paid online events to make it easy for creators to create an online event, set a price, promote the event, collect payment and host the event, all in one place.
On Instagram, we’re developing a suite of monetization tools to help creators grow and make a living, no matter what stage they’re at or what content they’re sharing. In India, creators are monetizing through branded content partnerships and as a platform, we’re focused on helping them connect with brands.
About the Expert
Paras Sharma, Director
Media Partnerships, Facebook India
Paras Sharma is the Director of Media Partnerships at Facebook India. Paras has over 20 years of experience in different disciplines of Media covering Content, Creative, Programming, Marketing & Communications, Platforms (pay-tv, FTA, OTT, Telcos), Digital Media (Content & Platforms) across multiple genres & demographics including music, general entertainment, movies, kids, sports & e-sports.