Say hello to Watch, a new platform on Facebook that features TV-like shows, including original content funded by the mega social network itself.
Launching on Thursday to a small number of users in the US, Watch is essentially a revamped, pumped up version of the US-only Video tab. Through Watch, Facebook will serve up shows on iOS, Android, desktop, laptop and TV through its various applications.
Just like a typical television program, Facebook Watch shows will center around a theme or story line. These won’t be haphazard Facebook Live broadcasts, but rather professional-grade productions. Some shows, of course, will be done live, or include live segments.
Every show on Watch also includes a comment section, letting you follow the conversation around a show and engage with your own hot take. This brings a very Facebook social element to the mix, though chat is a feature we’ve already seen on YouTube.
You’ll be able to keep tabs on your favorite programs though the Watchlist, and scope what your friends are tuning into or explore categories like “Most Talked About” and “What’s Making People Laugh” to discover more shows.
What’s on Facebook tonight?
Much like who can actually watch shows when the first ones go live on Thursday, Facebook is limiting who can make them to a small set of publishers for the time being.
Eventually, the company plans to let more people create shows and have a Show Page, which are like Pages for businesses. Interested parties can “register your interest in creating a show” here.
Facebook detailed the kinds of content it thinks will do well in a few categories, as detailed in a blog post: shows that engage with fans and community, live shows that connect directly with fans, shows that follow a narrative arc or have a consistent theme, and live events that bring communities together.
This last bit goes directly after other services’ sports ambitions, as Facebook will broadcast a Major League Baseball game every week. Twitter previously live streamed Thursday night NFL games, however, it recently lost those rights to Amazon. Twitter now broadcasts a number of live programs throughout the day, including sports.
As for its own original content, Facebook’s aim is to essentially show creators what it thinks will work on Watch, and has funded programs that fall into the community-oriented and episodic categories.
One such show is Returning the Favor with Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame. Rowe sets out to find people who are “doing something extraordinary for their community.” He’ll in turn do “something extraordinary for them.” As if being broadcast on Facebook weren’t enough, the people feature in the show are nominated by Rowe’s Facebook fans. The circle, my friends, is complete.
In case there was any doubt, Facebook has every intention of having creators make money from their Watch shows, and to that end some shows (presumably the successful ones) will have Ad Breaks. Facebook wants to continue to provide a good viewing experience, so it will roll out Ad Breaks methodically. There’s also the opportunity to create sponsored shows.
We’ve asked Facebook for a few more details on Watch, including what other shows its funding and any requirements creators and publishers have to meet in order to have a show. We’ll update this story if we hear back.
Though starting out small, Facebook Watch has the potential to be a true YouTube competitor if it can hit the right mix of content and keep viewers coming back for more. We watch 100 million hours of video on Facebook already, but now it’s a matter of creating compelling content that’s worth users’ time. Especially as ads are brought into the fold.