A show about rescued dogs and neglected ponies has 130 million views on Facebook, and it could be coming to a TV near you

The Dodo
  • The Dodo’s animal-focused show “Comeback Kids: Animal Edition” is the most popular show on Facebook Watch based on overall views, views per episode and shares per episode.
  • Facebook declined to confirm whether the show was coming back for another season, but The Dodo’s founder Izzie Lerer is optimistic.
  • The publisher wants to experiment with long-form content including TV, as well as other mediums like 360-degree video and virtual reality in the future.

Puppy and kitten videos rule the internet. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that a show centered around animals took the top honours among Facebook Watch’s first round of media publisher shows.

Animal social video publisher The Dodo’s show “Comeback Kids: Animal Edition,” beat all competition to become the No. 1 most watched publisher show on Facebook Watch.

The show, which spotlights heartwarming stories of animals overcoming all kinds of hardships, is ahead of the curve among shows by other media publishers in terms of overall views, views per episode and shares per episode, according to social monitoring platform CrowdTangle. There are shows by individual creators like Nas Daily, however, that are ahead of it.

“Because we had built The Dodo brand with short form video content, we had data on what was resonating the most with our audience,” Izzie Lerer, founder and chief creative officer at The Dodo, told Business Insider. “That data, combined with an understanding of our audience, informed what kind of a show we should have.”

The show has amassed over 130 million views across five episodes in its first season. That is significantly higher views and average views per episode than any other publisher, according to data from Delmondo. The closest second is Mike Rowe’s show “Returning the Favour,” with around 90 million total views.

According to Lerer, the Facebook Watch opportunity came knocking at the perfect time. It was when The Dodo – which has a website but is primarily a social video publisher – had already cracked the 30 to 90-second video format with some viral hits, and wanted to experiment with more mid-form and original content.

The Group Nine Media-owned publisher decided to take the plunge and tell animal stories with more robust narratives, as well as make a conscious effort to branch out outside of just dogs and cats. The theme would focus heavily on transformation through rescue and rehabilitation and not just cuteness.

The first video of the series, for example, chronicles the journey of a rescued Golden Retriever called Chi Chi, tracing her journey from being unable to walk to becoming a therapy dog. The third tells the story of Poly, a neglected pony in a farm animal sanctuary in Belgium that is nursed back to health. Both videos were runaway hits, with Poly’s video being the most popular video in the season with over 83 million views and 838,000 shares.

“The first episode was very strong right out of the gate,” The Dodo president YuJung Kim said. “And that proved that we’d realised our aim of building a loyal audience around passion points, regardless of the platform and format.”

Comeback Kids continued to draw viewership across the entire season, with over 150 million minutes of consumption. The show’s audience also grew consistently after each episode was aired. After the first episode, for example, the show’s audience swelled by 60,000 fans, followed by 25,000; 215,000; 25,000 and 30,000 fans after the subsequent four episodes. This is line with what other publishers such as Attn and Condé Nast have seen, with their Watch videos having greater retention compared to regular programming.

The show also saw high levels of engagement. Poly’s video, for example, was shared 838,000 times as opposed to a regular video posted by The Dodo, which gets an average of 70,000 shares, according to Kim. What’s more, 15% of the viewers made it to the end of each episode, when the average is 7 seconds for non-Watch videos.

This is hardly surprising, said Brendan Gahan, founder and EVP of social agency Epic Signal.

“Animals have always done well online, but these videos, which feature heart-wrenching ‘comeback’ stories of cute animals, tug at the heartstrings,” he said. “They not only make you smile and move on, but they can also make you laugh, cry and generate a real, physical reaction.”

Facebook doesn’t break down stats data or viewership numbers around individual shows and declined to confirm whether the show was due to return on Watch for a second season. But it is reportedly planning to spend as much as $US1 billion on funding video in 2018, with shows driving repeat viewers being one of its biggest criterias.

Lerer said that “given season one’s success, we’re exploring future seasons of Comeback Kids.”

The publisher wants to experiment with long-form content including TV, as well as other mediums like 360-degree video and virtual reality in the future.

“We’re pushing deeper into longer-form content,” Lerer said. “This has helped us create a model whereby we can take our learnings and apply it beyond.”

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