Facebook announced “Watch,” the long-awaited update to its video section where people can go watch short, episodic video shows. You’ll also be able to watch some live video here, including live sports that the social network has the rights to stream, like Major League Baseball games.
Facebook already had a video tab. But now that tab has been redesigned, and will include short episodic “shows” that Facebook didn’t have before. Facebook is paying publishers like BuzzFeed, ATTN and Group Nine Media to make these shows, and will retain the rights to some of them. The majority of the shows, though, will be posted on Facebook free of charge. Some publishers plan to run mid-roll video ads, à la commercials, during the shows to make money.
If successful, Facebook’s push into video programming could represent a major new source of revenue for the company, which has begun running out of room to place new ads in in the News Feed. It could also pose a strategic threat to other big video purveyors, including YouTube, Amazon, and Netflix. First, though, Facebook needs to prove that its users will watch longer video — and accompanying mid-roll advertisements — inside its apps.
Facebook admits that “we’ve 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 we’ll hopefully scale to thousands.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg writes that “We believe it’s possible to rethink a lot of experiences through the lens of building community — including watching video. Watching a show doesn’t have to be passive . . . You’ll 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.”
The new Watch tab will showcase episodic videos that follow a theme or story arc, Facebook said on Wednesday. Users will be able to create a watch list to keep up with new episodes their favorite shows, which will also be available to watch on Facebook's TV app.
Among the different sections in the tab will be ones for the "most talked about" videos and ones that "friends are watching." Viewers will also be able to see comments from others while watching a show.
Facebook initially hoped to debut its redesigned video tab and show effort earlier this year, but the date has been moved back several times as more show partners have been brought on board.
In typical Facebook fashion, only a small percentage of users will see the new Watch tab in the Facebook app immediately after it launches on Thursday. But Facebook plans to slowly make it available to everyone in the coming weeks.
While some shows will be available right away to the small percentage of users with initial access to the Watch tab, roughly 40 shows will be included in the first full slate of programming scheduled to debut for everyone on August 28, people familiar with the matter said.
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