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Facebook Says Video Is Huge -- 100-Million-Hours-Per-Day Huge

Facebook reiterated -- again -- that video is a big part of its business.

Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

Facebook’s obsession with video — getting users to both upload and consume it on Facebook — has officially become a pillar of the company’s quarterly earnings report.

Facebook still hasn’t shared everything about its video business — like the revenue, for example — but video was once again the focal point for analysts on its Q4 earnings call Wednesday afternoon. The company isn’t shying away from how important video is becoming to its business.

Just how important, exactly? The company offered up a few Facebook-size numbers to try to prove its point. Users watch 100 million hours of video per day on Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. Also this one: 500 million people watch Facebook video every day. The first number is new* and apparently replaced the “total video views” metric Facebook has shared in the past. (More on that below.)

“We’re also exploring ways to give people a dedicated place on Facebook for when they just want to watch videos,” Zuckerberg said on the call. (This is something Facebook is already testing.)

Those metrics are a little hard to quantify — what exactly does 100 million hours of video actually mean? — but they matter because Facebook’s advertising strategy is going to follow user behavior. Put simply: More Facebook video consumption means more Facebook video advertising. And video ads are usually more expensive, which means more revenue for Facebook.

This video focus isn’t new. Facebook has been pushing into video for years and trying to persuade advertisers to spend some of their television budgets on Facebook ads instead. Facebook doesn’t break out its video ad revenue, so it’s tough to tell how big its video business actually is, but when we asked Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg before the call whether or not Facebook’s video ads were finally stealing those ad dollars, she said that budgets are starting to shift.

“In terms of replacing TV, we certainly don’t think we’re going to replace any one medium,” she said. “We do think that eyeballs are shifting, not just from TV but from a lot of other formats, to mobile. And we are positioned very well to not just participate but to lead that shift.”

But Sandberg also believes that Facebook ads can go hand in hand with TV ads as a kind of second-screen experience. “We work really well with TV. It’s not always the choice of TV or Facebook, but often we can be a complement.”

That is probably true for live TV events, like the Super Bowl, but video consumption is shifting and existing players, like YouTube, are in Facebook’s crosshairs. Facebook’s “total time watched” metric is a new one for the company, but more aligned with how YouTube describes its viewership. YouTube, for example, claims on its website that users watch “hundreds of millions of hours” of video every day.

It’s worth noting that Facebook did not report total video views, which it has the past few quarters. Last quarter, for example, it reported eight billion video views per day. One theory: Snapchat started generating some comparisons earlier this month to show it gaining on Facebook’s total views number. If Facebook doesn’t report it, there isn’t much to compare.

Investors liked what they heard Wednesday. Facebook stock was up more than 12 percent in after-hours trading following the call.

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Facebook’s total video consumer metric was new. It was actually shared on the company’s Q3 earnings call and re-shared Wednesday.

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