Facebook, the social network once heralded as a great disruptor of traditional television advertising, has just launched its very own TV product.
Called “Watch,” the social video platform will offer a slew of original content created in partnership with some familiar publishers from your News Feed, such as ATTN, BuzzFeed’s Tastemade and Condé Nast, among others.
Unlike traditional TV, and similar to Netflix, Watch debuts with a focus on personalization and discovery. A Watchlist, unique for each user, will feature prioritized shows you may like based on the shows you already follow. A Discover tab will surface new programming for you to browse.
In the announcement, the company strategically positions Watch in line with Facebook’s revamped mission statement, which revolves around building “meaningful communities.” This positioning is supported by product features that allow people to comment and react to videos as they watch, as well as view other people’s comments as part of the overall experience.
“We believe it’s possible to rethink a lot of experiences through the lens of building community—including watching video. 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,” Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
Facebook believes that the commentary around video is as core to the experience as the content itself, and so it’s categorizing content around things like total volume of conversations (“Most Talked About”), how people are reacting (“What’s Making People Laugh”) and what users’ immediate networks are watching (“What Friends Are Watching”). Moreover, each show will get its own Page where fans can form communities around their favorite programs.
Interestingly, earlier this week YouTube introduced its own social video update to the mobile app: a messaging feature that allows people to connect with friends to discuss video content.
So, what types of shows can we expect to see? According to Facebook: a little bit of everything, including scripted series, live events and reality-style programming. According to Business Insider, BuzzFeed, Tastemade, ATTN and Condé Nast are among the partners who will be producing content and receiving a share of mid-roll ad revenue. Creators and publishers will also be able to natively partner with brands, but the onus is on them to tag the sponsor.
Last year, Facebook reported that the average user spends 50 minutes per day with the platform—a substantial number but less than the 2.8 hours per day the average American spends watching TV and movie content, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With Watch, Facebook is making a clear play for this attention and hopes that user behavior (and ad dollars) will follow suit.
Practitioners in the marketing world might see the debut of Watch as social media coming full circle. When Facebook once debuted as a viable channel for marketers, agencies and brands responded by building out their social and community practices to reach consumers in a new environment. Over time, Facebook’s slow and steady algorithm updates forced brands to revert to paid social media to reach audiences there.
Watch brings the advertising world back to traditional TV model, except instead of mass media buys with major networks, ads will be served programmatically, customized by viewer and able to be hyper-targeted based on the treasure trove of data Facebook holds for each of its 2 billion users. Crowdtap CEO Matt Britton predicted such a model during his SMWLA keynote, which discussed the possibilities of programmatic TV.
Facebook is rolling out the new platform over the next few weeks. It will be interesting to see if eyeballs follow the update, or if people will continue using Facebook as they do today. Ultimately, it’s the content will determine the user behavior (and ad revenue).
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