- A new sports documentary featuring Tom Brady is generating buzz for Facebook Watch.
- That’s good news for Facebook, given how underwhelming many of its early shows have been.
- The new doc, along with professional productions like ESPN’s “First Take” offshoot, could serve to help better define Facebook Watch and bring more viewers and advertisers to the emerging outlet.
All Tom Brady does is win. Even in web video.
“If you’re gonna compete against me, you’d better be willing to give up your life. Because I’m giving up mine.”
That’s what the New England Patriots quarterback says in his new documentary on Facebook Watch, “Tom vs. Time.” Facebook seems to share Brady’s cutthroat competitiveness.
And while’s way too early to draw conclusions about a platform that launched just this past August, Facebook Watch may be suddenly on to something with the buzzy “Tom vs. Time.”
Since going live on January 25, the first episode of “Tom vs. Time” has generated over 9.5 million views. While there have been bigger individual Facebook Watch videos to date, the show is garnering some noticeable attention in the sports world.
It even generated some unexpected controversy when Brady cut off an interview with a Boston radio station after a host made a disparaging comment regarding Brady’s daughter’s appearance on the Facebook show.
Moreover, “Tom vs. Time” has the potential to get people to think differently about the Facebook video experience, since it looks far more polished than the typical web series. That could give viewers, and advertisers, a reason to take the rest of Watch more seriously.
it’s stupid how good “Tom vs Time” is. however you feel about Brady and the #Patriots, getting that in-depth a look at an elite athlete and his behind-the-scenes preparation and process is unprecedented.
— Chris Brockman (@chrisbrockman) January 28, 2018
Facebook Watch is quickly pivoting to quality
Indeed, the show arrives just as Facebook, after a bumpy start that was well chronicled by Business Insider, appears to be refining its Watch strategy. So far, the key seems to be building shows around celebrities lots of people know, like Brady, or the loud mouth NBA parent Lavar Ball, or to a lesser extent the comedian Nicole Byer who has over 200,000 Twitter followers and over 364,000 Facebook fans and stars in Facebook’s “Loosely Exactly Nicole,” a series ported over from MTV.
Another lesson from the Brady show – it’s a good idea to get professionals to make the shows if you can. That’s Facebook’ approach with an upcoming scripted show backed by Kerry Washington (ABC’s “Scandal”).
Even better, work with people that know how to get people to tune in to shows. Ideally, they can tell the world about Facebook Watch so Facebook doesn’t have to hope its algorithm steers enough people there regularly.
Like the case of the new sports-talk series “First Take: Your Take” from ESPN, which will tap into the power of the sports network’s reach to bring people to Watch frequently, rather than stumbling onto the platform here and there.
In Brady’s case, the timing is near perfect. Not only are the Patriots facing off against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in the Super Bowl, Brady’s eighth. But Brady’s relationship with his coach Bill Belichick and his relationship with his controversial trainer were the subject of a much-hyped ESPN investigative piece.
According to the social-analytics firm ListenFirst, the viewership patterns for the first two episodes of “Tom vs. Time” are similar to “Ball in the Family,” the show featuring the Los Angeles Laker rookie Lonzo Ball and his vocal father Lavar.
Both shows generated big view numbers from their first episodes, before settling in at around 2 million views. And each one has generated between 45,000 and 47,000 content responses (shares, comments), according to ListenFirst. Facebook has already rolled out a second season of “Ball in the Family.”
Facebook Watch can benefit from traditional TV know-how
In ESPN’s case, it’s old-fashioned programming tactics and powerful promotional marketing that it’s looking to transfer to Watch. On January 29 the network is rolling out “First Take: Your Take,” a three-days-a-week series that is essentially a Facebook-tailored version of the popular ESPN debate series “First Take.”
Here’s what’s Watch-worthy about the new show. On Mondays episodes of First Take: Your Take” will feature host Molly Qerim and ESPN commentators Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman debating big issues in the sports landscape, much like they do on TV. But the twist is they’ll be inviting viewers to submit their own opinions on various topics.
Some of those submissions will be featured on the Wednesday episodes of “First Take: Your Take,” and on Fridays a lucky fan will get the chance to debate one of the shows hosts one on one.
Naturally, ESPN will promote the Facebook Watch series on its TV network.
“We approach all of these efforts as ‘what can we do that is uniquely and powerfully us,'” Ryan Spoon ESPN’s senior vice president, social content, told Business Insider. “This show is not a repurpose of anything we already do, and it’s not something we could do anywhere else. Fans are gonna be part of the show, which is made for this environment.”
Spoon said setting viewer expectations, and pushing them to come back regularly, will be key.
“I also want the fans to know, ‘Monday i’m gonna get X, Wednesday, I want to see what fan videos make it in, and then Friday, I really want to know what happens.’ So rhythm is really important [in TV]. And familiarity is a good thing.”
“We are all figuring this out,” he added.
The same can be said for Facebook Watch, where viewership norms have yet to be established. Again, its early.
Even as Facebook adds more quality projects, the platform is still a mishmash of typical web fare. Think cooking videos you could find anywhere. Clips from shows like the Late Show that have been on YouTube and Hulu for years. Videos breaking down video game strategies and conspiracy theories. The magician Rick Lax has generated tens of millions of views with clips like “Carmel Onions for My Nasty Neighbor.”
One recent Facebook partner described Watch’s earliest output as being “a mile wide and an inch deep.”
Thus, it’s a good bet that Facebook is enjoying the sudden modicum of respect “Tom vs. Time” is providing. The company will surely want more.