Facebook launches original video content in redesigned Watch tab


Facebook has a new home for original video content produced exclusively for it by partners, who will earn 55% of ad break revenue while Facebook keeps 45%. The “Watch” tab and original shows will start rolling out tomorrow on mobile, desktop, and Facebook’s TV apps to a small group of U.S. users.

By hosting original programming, Facebook could boost ad revenue and give people a reason to frequently return to the News Feed for content they can’t get anywhere else.

Watch features personalized recommendations of live and recorded shows to watch, plus categories like “Most Talked About”, “What’s Making People Laugh”, and “Shows Your Friends Are Watching”. A Watchlist feature lets you subscribe to updates on new episodes of your favorite shows.

Facebook says it plans to roll out access to Watch to more users and more content creators soon. It admits that “we’ve also funded some shows” as examples.  “We want any publisher/creator who is interested to be able to create a show in the future” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. “So while there will be hundreds of shows at launch, and we’ll hopefully scale to thousands.”

Business Insider reported some leaked details about the redesign earlier today, but pegged the launch of original programming as starting August 28th when the shows will begin to roll out tomorrow.

Some of the original programming that will be available on Watch includes:

  • Nas Daily – Famous rapper Nas makes videos with his biggest friends each day
  • Gabby Bernstein – Motivational speaker and author answers fans’ life questions in live and recorded segments
  • BuzzFeed/Tastemade’s Kitchen Little – This cooking show sees kids watch a how-to recipe video, then instruct a pro chef how to make the dish with comedic results
  • Major League Baseball – The MLB will broadcast one game a week live on Facebook
  • Mike Rowe – Rowe finds people who’ve done great things for their community and gives them a special experience in return.

Facebook first launched its dedicated video tab in April 2016, but it only hosted the more generic News Feed videos people were already seeing from Pages and friends. Now Facebook is in the business of funding original content, initially through direct payments, though it seeks to switch entirely to a revenue share model in the future to make its original programming effort sustainable.

Facebook’s competitors like YouTube and Snapchat have already experimented with creating original video content. YouTube Red funds several original series, giving bigger production budgets to some of its biggest stars. Snapchat has tried making its own shows in-house, but now focuses on signing deals with partners like TV studios to get fresh, vertical video content into its Discover section.

Facebook’s benefit is that Watch is cross-platform, allowing people to view videos from all their devices, while also being a daily destination for 1.32 billion users. It’s already become a powerhouse in serendipitous video discovery via the News Feed, and Watch will surely provide enough suggestions to get people hooked on shows they weren’t expecting.

But through premium original programming, Facebook is also trying to become a home for deliberate video consumption where people come to view a specific show. While there are already plenty of reasons to visit Facebook, original shows give people a reason to spend longer staring at their screens. If it can drive enough viewers to these shows thanks to its 2 billion total uses, Facebook could offer significant revenue share payouts, attracting better and better content creators.

Facebook’s been trying to eat the whole Internet for years now. With Watch and these shows, it’s breaking out of the web to challenge traditional television which is seeing viewership slide. As ad spends follow eye-balls from TV to the web, Watch could give Facebook a way to net more attention and dollars.

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