Facebook has a new home for original video content produced exclusively for it by partners, who will earn 55 percent of ad break revenue while Facebook keeps 45 percent. The Watch tab and several dozen original shows will start rolling out to a small group of U.S. users tomorrow on mobile, desktop and Facebooks TV apps.
By hosting original programming, Facebook could boost ad revenue and give people a reason to frequently return to the News Feed for content they cant get anywhere else.
Watch features personalized recommendations of live and recorded shows to watch, plus categories like Most Talked About, Whats Making People Laugh and Shows Your Friends Are Watching. Publishers can also share their shows to the News Feed to help people discover them. A Watchlist feature lets you subscribe to updates on new episodes of your favorite shows. Fans can connect with each other and creators through a new feature that links shows to Groups.
Facebook says it plans to roll out access to Watch to more users and more content creators soon, starting with the rest of the U.S. before expanding internationally. Users with access will see a TV-shaped Watch button in the bottom navigation bar of Facebooks main app that opens the new video hub.
Facebook admits that weve also funded some shows as examples, but notes that these are only a small percentage of all the available shows. We want any publisher/creator who is interested to be able to create a show in the future, a Facebook spokesperson tells me. So there will be hundreds of shows at launch, and well hopefully scale to thousands.
Business Insider reported some leaked details about the redesign earlier today, but pegged the launch of original programming as starting August 28th, when the shows actually will begin to roll out tomorrow.
Facebooks shows will run the gamut from live event coverage to reality TV to scripted programs. More and more people are coming to Facebook in order to watch video Facebooks director of video product Daniel Danker tells me. When they come with that in mind, we want to make a place for them where they can find that video, connect with the creators and publishers they love, and know they wont miss out if theres a new episode from one of those creators.
Heres a list of some of the original programming that will be available on Watch:
Whats clearly absent is the type of longer-form scripted dramas and comedies people are used to watching on television. Instead, there are plenty of mini-documentaries, reality shows, and sports coverage.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg writes that We believe its possible to rethink a lot of experiences through the lens of building community including watching video. Watching a show doesnt have to be passive . . .Youll be able to chat and connect with people during an episode, and join groups with people who like the same shows afterwards to build community.
When you open Watch, youll be able to scroll through a long list of categories of shows to view. Alternatively, you can either swipe over or arrive from a notification about a new episode to view the Watchlist of all the lastest shows released by creators you follow. Once youve opened an episode youll see all the details about it, with one tab for joining a live comment reel with other viewers, and an Up Next tab displaying what youll view after the current episode if you prefer a glazed-eyes lean-back experience.
Theres no specific content restrictions on swearing or violence beyond Facebooks existing community standards, but Facebook will monitor for shows that get flagged.
Publishers can choose to insert ad breaks if they want to earn money off their shows, though the guidelines on where and how long they can be are still being finalized. If publishers want to give away their content, they dont have to show ads. Another option is to do product placed or branded content, in which case the creator has to tag the sponsor paying them for transparency. Shows will have their own dedicated Facebook Pages, and creators can set up special show Groups where fans can ask questions and geek out together.
Beyond the Watch tab, you can also discover shows through the News Feed if a publisher you follow posts an episode or friends are talking about it. That gives Facebook the opportunity to artificially boost the presence of shows in News Feed to build a bigger audience for the new content initiative.
Facebook first launched its dedicated video tab in April 2016, but it only hosted the more generic News Feed videos people were already seeing from Pages and friends. Now Facebook is in the business of funding original content, initially through direct payments, though it seeks to switch entirely to a revenue-share model in the future to make its original programming effort sustainable.
Facebooks competitors like YouTube and Snapchat have already experimented with creating original video content. YouTube Red funds several original series, giving bigger production budgets to some of its biggest stars. Snapchat has tried making its own shows in-house, but now focuses on signing deals with partners like TV studios to get fresh, vertical video content into its Discover section.
Facebooks benefit is that Watch is cross-platform, allowing people to view videos from all their devices, while also being a daily destination for 1.32 billion users. Its already become a powerhouse in serendipitous video discovery via the News Feed, and Watch will surely provide enough suggestions to get people hooked on shows they werent expecting.
But through premium original programming, Facebook is also trying to become a home for deliberate video consumption where people come to view a specific show. While there are already plenty of reasons to visit Facebook, original shows give people a reason to spend longer staring at their screens. If it can drive enough viewers to these shows thanks to its 2 billion total users, Facebook could offer significant revenue-share payouts, attracting better and better content creators.
Facebooks been trying to eat the whole internet for years now. With Watch and these shows, its breaking out of the web to challenge traditional television, which is seeing viewership slide. As ad spends follow eyeballs from TV to the web, Watch could give Facebook a way to net more attention and dollars.