Facebook Watch thrives with breaking news, 'Fox News Update' with Shepard Smith

MENLO PARK, Calif. - One year after Facebook Watch debuted as a dedicated section of the social media giant for news, shows such as “Fox News Update” with Shepard Smith are drawing significant audiences and the program will be expanded.

A whopping 720 million people consume Watch on a monthly basis and 140 million people spend at least one minute per day using the service, according to data released by Facebook. The average daily visitor spends more than 26 minutes in Watch on a daily basis.

Facebook Watch, which is essentially the company’s answer to YouTube, allows viewers to access content on desktop, mobile and TV apps. Since it launched in 2017, Facebook Watch also has partnered with a variety of content producers including Major League Baseball, WWE and Conde Nast.

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Facebook bills Watch as a success, not only because of viewership but also because its programs use innovative formatting, well-known talent and provide a platform for breaking news coverage. The first batch of programming began last year in the United States but Facebook plans to continue investing in news programming, with projects in international markets as Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Europe already in the works.

Facebook says that Watch also proves that its news audience craves and values breaking news coverage.

“Daily episodes with the highest views and strongest engagement were often driven by coverage of breaking news topics or the major news stories of the day. The weekly episodes’ successes, by contrast, were often driven by topic virility that resonated strongly in News Feed and were often shared widely,” Facebook global video lead Shelley Venus wrote, in a statement.

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In addition to Smith’s “Fox News Update,” other cable news hosts such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Univision’s Jorge Ramos also host programming on Facebook Watch. “Fox News Update” is live twice per day, five days per week and Facebook says its high audience engagement demonstrates there is an appetite for straight news on the platform.

“We also found that Facebook viewership habits are in line with news consumption off platform, particularly when it comes to breaking news. Live news coverage performs well on Watch when there are big breaking news stories being told,” Venus added. “We are excited about the opportunity to expand this test and learn more with our news partners globally about the kinds of timely, relevant and quality news video audiences are interested in.”

Facebook has come under fire in recent years over a variety of claims, including that conservative news was buried on the site. Smith, the host of “Shepard Smith Reporting,” has been praised for his nonpartisan coverage of the Trump administration.

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Facebook plans to enhance Watch by making it easier to join various groups based on a user’s specific tastes and will expand Ad Breaks with additional languages. The company announced a slew of new content that will be released over the coming months, including the animated show “Human Discoveries” with Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick, which premieres on July 16.