Promising online shows that run from comedy and reality to live sports, Facebook says its new Watch platform will let creators connect with their audiences — and earn money in the process. The social media giant's plan calls for using ads to monetize video.
With nearly 2 billion users, Facebook could further disrupt an online video space that's seeing media companies such as HBO offer their content directly to viewers. While many of those companies rely on a subscriber model for revenue, Watch would compete more directly with other social networks, such as YouTube, Twitter, and Snapchat, in offering an ad-based service.
Disclosure: Facebook pays NPR and other leading news organizations to produce live video streams that run on the site.
Rather than being organized by place or profile pages on Facebook, the new content on Watch would be created under a show page — a move that could unite the processes of watching and commenting on TV and other video.
"We think creating a show has a number of benefits, like the ability to reach a predictable and loyal audience," Facebook's Nick Grudin, VP of Media Partnerships, wrote of the plan.
Other than its platform, the concept closely resembles TV's model of episodic shows, as Advertising Age notes. The site reports that the shows "are being created by partners like A&E Networks, Hearst, National Basketball Association, Business Insider, Mashable, National Geographic, Brit & Co. and other outlets."
Episodes of Watch shows can be either live or recorded. In announcing the platform, Facebook said it has funded several series, including Returning the Favor, hosted by Mike Rowe.
Major League Baseball has also been streaming one game each week on Facebook. Other shows cited by the social network include Nas Daily — whose host left YouTube for Facebook one year ago — and Kitchen Little, a cooking show about kids.
In a crowded media landscape, Facebook's announcement prompted the tech site Recode to ask, "Does anyone actually want to watch 'shows' on Facebook?"
While free online video has proven itself able to support individual stars with devoted fan bases, it's not yet clear whether it can also make highly produced and scripted shows profitable. When Watch rolls out, it will do so with a group of chosen video producers, as Facebook seeks to establish the platform.
As The Verge notes, "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."
The Watch platform will initially be seen by only a limited number of users in the U.S., the company says. And while the first batch of content will come from creators who've been invited and/or paid to participate, the platform will eventually feature a much wider group.
The Watch show "inquiry" page includes a dropdown menu that suggests the company will consider a wide range of content creators, from individual producers, artists and musicians to sports and media organizations.
Facebook says video creators would be able to get paid for their shows through Ad Breaks, which some producers have already been using to drop advertising into live streams. That pool of producers will get larger, the company says. In addition, show producers "can also create sponsored shows using our branded content tag," Facebook says.