Snapchat on pace to overtake Facebook for video supremacy

Snapchat's app on iOS

Snapchat's app on iOS.

Credit: Zach Miners/IDG News Service

Two of today's most popular social networks are battling for video dominance, and although Snapchat's community is just a tenth of the size of Facebook's user base, the smaller app is poised to pass its larger rival in daily video views.

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Facebook and Snapchat are neck-and-neck in a race for the most daily video views, according to recent numbers from the two companies. The social media juggernaut and "disappearing" messaging app both say they receive more than 4 billion video views a day. However, Facebook has 10 times more daily users than Snapchat.

Facebook slows, Snapchat grows

Snapchat's video business is growing at least twice as fast as Facebook's number of video views. Facebook last provided an update on its daily video views in April, while Snapchat's latest figures are less than a month old. Facebook's number increased by 25 percent, from 3 billion to 4 billion, during the three-month period ending in April. Meanwhile, Snapchat steamrolled through the summer and doubled its daily videos, from 2 billion to 4 billion, during the three-month period ending in August.

While the numbers are for different three-month time periods, the comparison is relevant because it shows Facebook's momentum slowly slipping in early spring and the rapid growth of Snapchat video views. It took three months for Facebook's daily video views to increase from 3 billion to 4 billion; Snapchat jumped from 3 billion to 4 billion in just five weeks. Online video pioneer YouTube reached 4 billion daily video views in 2012, but it since stopped reporting views and now counts total watch time instead. 

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Facebook, which declined to provide more current numbers, says more than 75 percent of its video views come from mobile devices. Snapchat is available only as a mobile app, so all of its 4 billion views come from smartphones and tablets. Snapchat currently outpaces Facebook by about 1 billion daily views on mobile, according to the latest figures. 

Facebook first reached 1 billion daily video views in September 2014, then hit 3 billion in January 2015 and 4 billion in April. Snapchat didn't say when it surpassed 1 billion daily views, but its CEO Evan Spiegel told Bloomberg the company reached 2 billion daily views in May of this year. In late July the company hit 3 billion, then confirmed the 4-billion milestone in September.

"Comparing Snapchat to Facebook or YouTube is really difficult when it comes to video views, especially the all-in numbers that they each report from time to time," says Seth Shafer, research analyst at SNL Kagan. "Rolling in video views from its messaging service inflates Snapchat's daily video views metric in a way that isn't the case at Facebook or YouTube."

Facebook also loads auto-play videos and counts any video viewed for at least four seconds as a view, according to Shafer. "Snapchat and Facebook have both seen big jumps in daily video views over the last year or so, and a lot of that is indeed organic growth but both are benefiting from other drivers too," he says.

[Related News Analysis: Facebook video views continue to soar]

It's practically inevitable that a messaging service that lets users send videos directly to others, such as Snapchat, will outpace both Facebook and YouTube in daily views, according to Shafer.

"I also think that Facebook and YouTube likely don't care, as it's next to impossible to monetize private video messaging with standard pre-roll video ads," he says. "While Snapchat Discover is a very natural fit for the 10-second pre-roll ads that run on many videos, monetizing private video messages with any form of advertising will be very, very difficult to do without alienating users."

Race is on for social video dominance

Snapchat sits atop a wave of video momentum today, but Facebook saw even greater growth during the final four months of 2014, when its daily video views jumped from 1 billion in early September 2014 to 3 billion in January. And much of that growth occurred during the height of the ALS Association's wildly popular ice bucket challenge

In late May, Snapchat had approximately 100 million daily active users (DAU), according to an interview with CEO Spiegel at Re/code's Code Conference. Facebook reported 968 million DAUs in June. 

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Facebook was the darling of social video during the latter half of last year and at the start of 2015, but Snapchat quickly caught up. In fact, the app is poised to overtake Facebook in daily video views before the end of the year — despite its community being just a fraction of the size of Facebook's user base.

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