Philip Ellis
News & Views
Facebook launches its own ‘TV’ channel

Continuing its big push into premium video, Facebook is unveiling the “Watch” tab this week, comprising original video content from a wide range of partners, including Condé Nast Entertainment, Refinery29, Mashable, Tastemade and Bleacher Report. These shows will be divided into two main categories; full length programming, and “spotlight” clips which will run from 5 to 15 minutes.

As time goes on, Facebook Watch’s algorithm will serve up personalised recommendations and playlists, including “what’s making people laugh,” “most talked about,” and “shows your friends are watching.” Functionality will be similar to that of YouTube; users will be able to subscribe to shows they enjoy. In addition to the new Watch tab, shows will appear in the main News Feed of users who have subscribed to that program or follow that publisher.

A lot of the new programs won’t be dropping until later in the year, but titles that have been confirmed include: cooking show Kitchen Little by Tastemade; a Behind The Music-style docu-series called How It Went Down from Billboard; science show We’re Wired That Way by National Geographic; and feelgood viewing Comeback Kids: Animal Edition from The Dodo.

Publishers will be given the option to make their content available for free, or monetise it with ad breaks — 55 per cent of ad break revenue will go to the publisher, and 45 to Facebook. Product placement and branded content are also on the table.

“We believe it’s possible to rethink a lot of experiences through the lens of building community — including watching video,” says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “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.”

There is also talk of Watch eventually becoming an open platform in the vein of YouTube and Vimeo, wherein anybody with a camera and a story to tell can produce and publish content. But whether Facebook will be able to facilitate discovery for up-and-coming creators, and whether an influx of amateur content will cheapen the overall experience, remain to be seen.

“Most videos on Facebook seem to work because they appear organically in peoples’ News Feeds, and people watch them — or scroll past them — just because they’re there,” writes Recode’s Kurt Wagner. “Does anyone actually want to head over to Facebook to kick back and watch things on a regular basis? For long periods at a time? And sit through ads? We’ll see.”

At present, only users in the US will be able to view Facebook Watch; it will be available on mobile, desktop, and connected TV.

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