For all of Facebook’s big talk about video, it was still just part of the almighty News Feed.
Publishers hoping to capture a moment of a user’s attention looked for thumb-stopping moments, which gave rise to a new and not-terribly compelling format of video that remains endemic to Facebook.
Watch is something different. Facebook’s new original video program features TV-like shows made by media companies. Perhaps most importantly, the shows are showcased in a brand new section of the social network.
That’s enough to convince publishers, who have spent years contorting to fit into Facebook’s plans, that Watch could be big.
“We are really excited,” said Dawn Ostroff, president of Cond Nast Entertainment, which is producing a dating show with a virtual reality twist for Watch. “This is a new opportunity, a new type of content. [Facebook’s] trying to open up a whole new area for content makers.”
Oren Katzeff, Tastemade‘s head of programming, offered similar excitement. The food-focused media company has created six shows for Facebook Watch.
“Were able to be a part of appointment viewing, and thats huge,” Katzeff said
That enthusiasm is quite unlike how publishers have previously behaved when asked about their work with and on Facebook. Typically, there’s a roll of the eyes, a sigh, and a list of grievances.
“The problem with Facebook’s entire ‘news team’ is that they’re glorified client services people,” the head of digital operations at a major news outlet told Mashable at F8, the company’s annual developer conference in April.
Now, there’s a new sense of hope among the media industry. Facebook’s massive scale has always tempted publishers, but revenue has been elusive. Facebook’s new program, with its emphasis on quality content and less on thumb-bait, seems ready-made for high-end ads. These original shows, in concept, also compete with what’s available live on TV and bingeable on Netflix and Huluplatforms that most publishers haven’t cracked.
“I think it is where people will go to watch on-demand programming and live news, and I intend Cheddar to be the leading live news player on Watch,” Jon Steinberg, CEO of business news show Cheddar, wrote in a private Twitter message.
Simultaneously, there’s little stress for publishers about potential revenuefor now. Facebook has guaranteed minimum earnings for each episode, according to an executive at a participating publisher who could not be named since financial discussions are private. Facebook not only pays a licensing fee to publishers but also will split revenue from mid-roll ads.
It’s not the first time Facebook has cut checks for publishers to support video efforts. Last year, Facebook paid publishers, including Mashable, to produce live videos, requiring a minimum number of minutes streamed per month. (Mashable is also a Watch partner.)
But Facebook’s live video effort was slow to start, and publishers didn’t reap in rewardsespecially when it came to the return of their investments, several participants told Mashable.
It wasn’t all their fault or Facebook’s. For one, Facebook users weren’t really used to going to the site or the app for live video. Since then, Facebook has released several products, including a redesigned version of the current video tab and a TV app, both of which better support the new ecosystem. Publishers’ series will be spotlighted on the Facebook’s new tab for shows, for example. The experience is slowly being rolled out to users over the next month.
Participating publishers are going all in.
Tastemade produced six shows over the last few months and is still wrapping up a couple. Three are food focused: Kitchen Little, Struggle Meals, and Food To Die For. Two are more home and lifestyle: Move-In Day and Safe Deposit. The sixth is a late-night comedy show with celebrity interviews, hosted by an animated taco, called Let’s Taco Bout It.
“Tomas grew up as a Taco, and he had adopted parents, and his life goal has been to discover who his true parents are. He tries to relate with his guests,” Katzeff said.
What’s exciting here is not just an animated taco, but the fact that these publishers are well positioned to scale these tacos… err video series.
Maybe an animated taco won’t appeal to all 2 billion of Facebook’s users, but it doesn’t necessarily need to. Unlike TV, these shows aren’t locked into specific networks with a specific time-slot. Rather, they can be directed to actual people, based on their interests (Facebook likes) and demographic information.
“With Facebook Watch, the era of audience parting has truly arrived,” wrote Nick Cicero of Delmondo, a Facebook media solutions partner for video analytics.
Unlike TV, Facebook has a built-in platform for conversation. Ostroff of Cond Nast Entertainment said she believed Facebook greenlighted Virtually Dating, a show where blind dates take place in a virtual reality world, for the Watch platform because of the potential for online conversation.
“If it works, it was something that could go viral or a show that everyone could weigh in on,” Ostroff said. “Were excited about learning, learning how the viewer and the consumer is going to use [Watch]. Whats going to succeed and whats not.”
No one is saying it’s been easy. Several publishers told Mashable they have been careful to make sure they are staying in budget. They also noted that it is still a testone that they will be closely monitoring. Now that the shows are near launch, publishers said they will need to focus on promotion.
Watch “is really great for those who were actually able to get into the program,” said Jarrett Moreno, cofounder of ATTN, which has created Health Hacks starring Jessica Alba and We Need to Talk with Nev Schulman and Laura Perlongo.”It’s a priority for Facebook. They’ve emphasized that.”
A priority, for now.