Facebook opens mid-roll ads to more Live broadcasters, starts non-live test

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Facebook is opening up its video ad revenue stream to more publishers and creators, though it’s not giving advertisers any more control over or insight into which videos include their ads.

On Thursday, Facebook extended the ability for certain Pages and Profiles to insert mid-roll video ads within their Facebook Live broadcasts, and at the same time, the company officially announced that it has started testing these mid-roll ads, which it calls “ad breaks,” within non-live videos, as was reported last month. Facebook also expanded in-stream video ads to all eligible publishers in its Audience Network ad network of third-party apps and sites.

Facebook has been testing mid-roll ads within Live videos since last August, and now it’s opening up that test to more Pages and Profiles that will get a cut of Facebook’s revenue from ads appearing within their broadcasts. Facebook is also opening up with more details of what’s required before a Page or Profile can run an ad within a live stream on the social network.

For now, only Pages and Profiles in the US that have at least 2,000 followers and attracted at least 300 concurrent viewers to a Facebook Live broadcast within the past month are eligible to insert mid-roll ads in their live streams. If an otherwise eligible page has not hit 300 concurrent viewers for a single live stream yet, when it does, that Page or Profile will be able to insert ad breaks beginning the following day. If a Page or Profile has been flagged for intellectual property or community standards violations on Facebook, it may not be eligible to insert ad breaks, even if it meets the other requirements.

Starting today, Pages and Profiles that are eligible will be notified that they can use an ad break the next time they start a live broadcast on Facebook.

Ad breaks cannot be inserted at any time or into any broadcast from an eligible Page or Profile. Before a mid-roll ad can be added, a video must be live for at least four minutes and reach at least 300 concurrent viewers. After each ad break, the broadcaster must wait at least five minutes until it can take another ad break.

While a broadcaster has to attract at least 300 concurrent viewers before it can insert an ad break, it does not have to maintain that simultaneous viewership at the time an ad is inserted. If the concurrent viewer count hits 300 at the one-minute mark and drops below 300 at the three-minute mark, the broadcaster will still be able to insert an ad break at the four-minute mark and throughout the rest of the live stream.

Once the broadcast meets the duration and viewership requirements, the broadcaster will be able to tap a “$” icon in the composer window to start the ad break. Ad breaks will last up to 20 seconds, though ads appearing within an ad break are limited to 15 seconds a pop. The extra five seconds are designed to create some padding for the audience to switch from the actual live stream to the ad and back again.

Eligible Pages and Profiles can tap the “$” icon to insert an ad break into a live stream.

Mid-roll ads within non-Live videos are now at the stage that mid-roll ads within Live videos were at last year: early testing. Facebook recently started testing these ads with handful of publishers in the US, the company said on Thursday.

Facebook will not share with advertisers details of where their ads ran, like which publishers or specific videos an ad appeared within. And advertisers have limited control over which live or non-live videos their ads get slotted within.

Advertisers can use Facebook’s standard targeting options to pick out the audiences they want to see their ads, but they can’t pick out the specific publishers or videos in which they want those ads to appear. They can block their ads from appearing within certain types of content but are only provided three categories to choose from: “debated social issues,” “mature audiences” and “tragedy and conflict.” But those controls don’t suffice for some ad buyers who want to be able to specify which publishers’ videos can or cannot include their ads, according to several agency executives.

The lack of transparency and control extends to Facebook’s Audience Network, which has been a black box for advertisers and to which Facebook is also extending its in-stream video ads.

After testing in-stream video ads within its ad network since May 2016, Facebook is officially making in-stream video ads available to all Audience Network publishers that meet certain placement guidelines. In-stream video ads appearing within the ad network cannot be skipped if they are shorter than 30 seconds. If they are longer than 30 seconds, then they can be skipped after 10 seconds.

All video ads running across Audience Network must play with the sound on by default, mirroring Facebook’s recent shift to turn sound on by default on its own properties. Luckily, these audible ads shouldn’t startle people. Video ads cannot play automatically when slotted within an article like a normal display ad, and they can only appear within autoplay videos if the video player is the main element on the publisher’s page. If an ad is running within a publisher’s video player, it can only be slotted as a pre- or mid-roll ad, not a post-roll ad, and the video player must be at least 500 pixels wide on desktop or 300 pixels wide on mobile and support the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s VPAID specification.

About The Author

Tim Peterson, Third Door Media’s Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat’s ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar’s attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon’s ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube’s programming strategy, Facebook’s ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking’s rise; and documented digital video’s biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed’s branded video production process and Snapchat Discover’s ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands’ early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo’s and Google’s search designs and examine the NFL’s YouTube and Facebook video strategies.


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