They wanted the feature up and running by Christmas 2013, and it looks like Facebook might just sneak in by the skin of their teeth with the beta roll-out of auto-play video ads in desktop and mobile news feeds. In a blog post from the company earlier today, they confirmed that ads will play automatically on some news feeds although sound will only be activated if a user chooses to click on them. Once the video ad has finished playing, the user can either replay or choose other clips from the same brand. The ads will begin on Thursday (December 19th) on desktop and mobile versions of the site, with the inaugural ad one for the forthcoming film "Divergent".
In September, Facebook updated its video sharing feature so that videos shared by friends or verified 'Pages' automatically begin playing, without sound, as soon as they appeared in the news feed and now Facebook is now implementing the same system for video ads.
Facebook say that:
This format isn't intended for every video ad or page post video on Facebook... We'll continue to refine this new way for brands to tell stories on Facebook to ensure the best experience for people and marketers.
Ads on mobile devices will have been downloaded in advance when the device was connected to wi-fi so users won't have to worry about bandwidth issues. Facebook confirmed that "this content will not consume data plans, even if you're not connected to wi-fi at the time of playback".
You can see more from Facebook on the roll-out here:
The introduction of auto-play video ads has been dogged by issues regarding user engagement from the beginning but Facebook stand to make a substantial return in revenue from them. In a report earlier this year, Morgan Stanley estimated that the site could make around $1bn from video ads in 2014, rising to $6.5bn by 2020.