Facebook has unveiled its long-trailed move to compete in the television market by expanding its video tab offerings with a redesign called Watch. The redesigned product will be available initially to a limited group in the United States. Facebook signed deals this year with Vox Media, BuzzFeed, ATTN, Group Nine Media and others to produce shows, both scripted and unscripted.
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a post that Watch would allow users to “chat and connect with people during an episode, and join groups with people who like the same shows afterwards to build community”.
Shows will include videos of the Women’s National Basketball Association, a parenting show from Time Inc and a safari show from National Geographic. Facebook is already broadcasting some Major League Baseball games and that would continue, the company said.
ATTN said August 9th that it had two original series coming to Facebook Watch: a health programme with actress Jessica Alba and a relationship advice show.
Watch will be available on mobile, on desktop and laptop, and in TV apps. Shows are made up of episodes — live or recorded — and follow a theme or storyline. To help users keep up with the shows they follow, Watch has a Watchlist so they never miss out on the latest episodes.
Writing in the Facebook Blog, Daniel Danker, Director of Product, says that watching video on Facebook has the incredible power to connect people, spark conversation, and foster community. “On Facebook, videos are discovered through friends and bring communities together. As more and more people enjoy this experience, we’ve learned that people like the serendipity of discovering videos in News Feed, but they also want a dedicated place they can go to watch videos. That’s why last year we launched the Video tab in the US, which offered a predictable place to find videos on Facebook. Now we want to make it even easier to catch up with shows you love,” he remarks.
“Watch is personalised to help you discover new shows, organised around what your friends and communities are watching. For example, you’ll find sections like ‘Most Talked About’, which highlights shows that spark conversation, ‘What’s Making People Laugh’, which includes shows where many people have used the ‘Haha’ reaction, and ‘What Friends Are Watching’, which helps you connect with friends about shows they too are following,” he explains.
“We’ve learned from Facebook Live that people’s comments and reactions to a video are often as much a part of the experience as the video itself. So when you watch a show, you can see comments and connect with friends and other viewers while watching, or participate in a dedicated Facebook Group for the show,” he advises.
Danker describes Watch as a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work, suggesting that a wide variety of Facebook shows can be successful, particularly:
“We think Watch will be home to a wide range of shows, from reality to comedy to live sports. To help inspire creators and seed the ecosystem, we’ve also funded some shows that are examples of community-oriented and episodic video series. For example, Returning the Favor is a series hosted by Mike Rowe where he finds people doing something extraordinary for their community, tells the world about it, and in turn does something extraordinary for them. Candidates are nominated by Mike’s fans on Facebook,” says Danker.
“We’re excited to see how creators and publishers use shows to connect with their fans and community,” he says, adding that Facebook will be introducing Watch to a limited group of people in the US with plans to bring the experience to more people soon. “Similarly, we’ll be opening up Shows to a limited group of creators and plan to roll out to all soon,” he concludes.
According to Paolo Pescatore, VP, Multiplay and Media, CCS Insight, the move represents another significant step and underlines the company’s commitment in video. “All of its rivals have strengthened their video offerings and are pushing the boundaries further by rolling out new features quite regularly. And with everyone piling into offering video and TV it is becoming increasingly hard to differentiate. Fundamentally, it’s all about the content, creating that next biggest blockbuster.”
“Facebook is very well placed. The company has a tonne of data on its users and will now learn more about consumers’ habits and this will give it confidence to invest in content areas that will prove the most appealing to customers.”
Dror Ginzberg, Co-Founder & CEO of Wochit suggested the move was 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.”
“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.”
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