Facebook has unveiled its long-awaited video section for original programming, as it begins its assault on traditional TV.
The new platform, named ‘Watch’, will be available to users on mobile, desktop, and in Facebook’s TV apps. It will feature shows – from reality to comedy to live sports – made up of either live or recorded episodes and follow a theme or storyline. Shows at launch will include Nas Daily, a creator that makes daily videos with fans; Gabby Bernstein, a New York Times bestselling author connects with fans; Tastemade’s Kitchen Little, where kids instruct professional chefs on how to make a recipe; and Major League Baseball, which will broadcast a game a week on Watch. We can also expect to see shows from the likes of BuzzFeed, ATTN, and Conde Nast.
In a similar way to how YouTube offers up recommended videos on its homepage, Watch will be personalised around the user – displaying videos friends and communities are watching.
The comments section on Watch will work in the same way as on Facebook Live videos, so users comment and react in real-time while watching videos in the waterfall fashion that Live uses.
“We believe it's possible to rethink a lot of experiences through the lens of building community -- including watching video,” said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook. “Watching a show doesn't have to be passive. It can be a chance to share an experience and bring people together who care about the same things.”
Watch, for the time being, will be introduced to a limited group of people in the US, while Shows will also only be opened up to a limited group of creators. Facebook says it plans to roll out both on a wider scale ‘soon’.
Facebook is also working on enabling content creators to monetise their shows just like normal TV – via ad breaks.
“We’ve been testing Ad Breaks over the past few months, and we will be slowly opening up availability to more creators to ensure we’re providing a good experience for the community,” said Nick Grudin, VP of media partnerships at Facebook, in a blog post. “Creators can also create sponsored shows using our branded content tag.”
All-in-all, on first view, Watch looks like a low budget version of YouTube as opposed to a true TV challenger like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. It’s not very inspiring at the moment, but Facebook has time, and money, to really build something with shows that people might actually watch.
“This move is far more than just the creation of a new tab on Facebook. This is effectively the launch of Facebook TV and I think we can count on this being the first step toward the social media giant broadcasting its own original content,” said Dror Ginzberg, co-founder and CEO of Wochit.
“A key approach will also be to broadcast live sports events too. Previously, sports, like the Mexican football league, had been broadcast on Facebook Live, but the new Watch tab is the natural home for this now. We may also see Facebook finally become a player in the race to broadcast the Premier League when the rights are up for auction next year.”
Elsewhere, the introduction of Facebook’s TV efforts has coincided with the shutting down of NBC’s comedy streaming service Seeso. A variety of shows from the platform will now feature on VRV instead.