Australian media companies are now making exclusive content for Facebook, just weeks after they slammed the platform

Facebook Watch is partnering with Australian media companies (Photo by Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)
  • Facebook’s Watch platform will begin playing content created specifically for it by local broadcasters, including the Seven, Nine, and Ten networks, as well as SBS and Sky News.
  • Each company will receive funding for one new project that will be custom built for the Facebook Watch platform, and includes news, analysis, and content series.
  • It comes just weeks after the final report from the Digital Platforms Inquiry was released, in which many of the same media companies complained about the financial pressure Facebook, as well as Google, had placed on them.

A shrinking Australian media landscape produces strange bedfellows and the newest partnership between many of its biggest players and Facebook is no different.

Facebook Watch, the social media giant’s video-on-demand arm, has announced from Monday that users will be able to watch exclusive programs from all of Australia’s commercial broadcasters — the Seven, Nine and Ten networks — as well as Sky News and SBS.

Under the agreement, 7NEWS, Nine News, Network Ten as well as youth publisher Junkee Media will all publish their own daily news shows made for Facebook, while Sky will produce a news analysis program with guest commentators.

Pedestrian.TV meanwhile will create its own series called ’15 Minutes’ that digs into news and people that went viral, and what ended up happening to them after.

“16 million Australians come to Facebook to share what they love, and discuss topics that are important to them. By partnering with Australia’s leading news and current affairs organisations we believe more Australians will be able to connect to and share timely, relevant and quality news video,” Facebook Australia managing director Will Easton said in a release regarding the announcement.

“We are working with Australian news publishers to offer mobile-first content and support them build sustainable video businesses.”

Facebook Watch first partnered with media in the US last year, with companies including CNN, Fox News, Quartz, and BuzzFeed. It reportedly paid $US250,000 for the shows there. The Australian figure on the other hand, while undisclosed, is understood to be far lower.

Overall, it’s an interesting strategy considering that less than a fortnight ago, those same media companies were at Facebook’s throat during the Digital Platforms Inquiry — an investigation of the dominance of Facebook and Google in Australia and their impact on Australian media.

READ MORE: The Australian government has dropped its big report into big tech — here’s what it means for Google and Facebook

Chief amongst their complaints was that Facebook profited directly from publishers’ content that it did not make or pay for.

“There is no reason why digital platforms, whether general search engines or social media platforms, should be using traditional media content without payment. But because of the size and market dominance of these digital platforms, content owners have been powerless to require fair remuneration,” Seven West Media said in its submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

It appears Facebook is now throwing them a bone as it provides funding for each of these new projects. That’s quite a turnaround and the effect is obvious as media companies begin to change their tune.

“7NEWS will provide a high-quality service to Facebook which I’m sure will be mutually beneficial. It’s great for original content makers to now get revenue for our product from Facebook and we look forward to furnishing a profitable ongoing relationship,” Seven Network news and current affairs director Craig McPherson said in a release.

Privately however media executives are far more sceptical of Facebook’s intentions.

“(There is) no question the timing of the announcement is a PR move designed to distract from the ACCC inquiry,” one told The Age on the condition of anonymity.

“No-one is fooled by that. But we’re happy to take their money, and work with them on ways we can deliver and monetise our content on their platform.”

As the Australian government considers new regulations during a 12-week review of the ACCC’s recommendations, Facebook appears to be getting on the front foot.

Business Insider Australia is operated by Pedestrian Group, the publisher of Pedestrian.TV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nine.

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