Facebook's video obsession is paying off. Since last summer, the number of videos watched on Facebook has quadrupled, now totaling over 4 billion per day. This isn't just a bragworthy metric: It's likely to become a key piece of Facebook's business in the future.
Of the $3.32 billion that Facebook brought in advertising revenue in the last quarter, 73% of it was from mobile, the company announced today. And while video was not a huge focus in Facebook's earnings report, it is another area that is exploding for Facebook lately—and again, much of that activity is on mobile as well.
Facebook has supported video uploads since 2007, but only in the last few years has video become a big priority for the company internally. In 2013, the site and its mobile apps as users scrolled through their news feeds—an update that undoubtedly had a significant impact on the overall video playback. To further boost viewership, the company changed its news feed algorithm last summer to give video posts more prominent placement.
For Facebook, sharpening its focus on video has worked. Viewership keeps climbing, so much so that some think Facebook could start piecing together a competitive alternative to YouTube. Granted, Facebook's video content is predominantly user-generated and generally not of stellar quality, but with some investment in content and the creation of a video-specific app or interface of some kind, it's possible that we could start seeing dramatic headlines about Facebook's upcoming "YouTube killer" before we know it.
Scrolling through your Facebook news feed, you've likely noticed the auto play feature, which will silently start to show a kitten playing with water balloons (or a puppy carrying a slice of pizza in its mouth, or whatever video is going viral that day) without you having to click on anything. But one thing you won't see is a pre-roll ad for Geico auto insurance. Or any ad for that matter. That's because as explosive as these videos have been, the company hasn't been aggressive about monetizing them, apart from charging companies to promote their own videos. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in November 2014, Facebook ad chief David Fischer said the company had "no plans for pre-roll video ads."
However it winds up milking these videos for cash, the revenue Facebook brings in from video is another metric that is only bound to go up from here.
Update: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that Facebook sees 3 billion video views per day.