Facebook is looking ready for a big push into TV shows, and could spend millions on a single episode

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images.

NEW YORK CITY — Facebook is gearing up to announce its first slate of TV-like shows this summer, and the company could spend up to $US3 million an episode, according to The Wall Street Journal, putting spending in the range of marquee cable networks, and tech rivals like Netflix.

Facebook has been prepping its push into TV-style programming for quite some time, following YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, and others into the premium streaming market. But Facebook has delayed the effort multiple times already.

Facebook initially wanted to unveil its shows around its developer conference in mid-April, then in time for the Cannes Lions advertising festival, which started June 17. Neither of those dates happened. Now a person familiar with Facebook’s strategy tells Business Insider that Facebook is aiming for a July announcement, though the shows might not make their way into the wild until August — and the release could be delayed again.

When they do finally come out, those shows will exist in two main tiers.

The first are shorter shows around 3-10 minutes in length, mostly unscripted. Facebook will guarantee a minimum payment of $US5,000 to $US20,000 per episode for these shows, according to The Wall Street Journal, but Facebook won’t own them. Media companies will be free to move these videos off of Facebook’s platform after a few weeks, and monetise them elsewhere. Facebook has signed up a ton of new media companies for these shows, including Vox Media, BuzzFeed, Attn, and Group Nine Media, Reuters first reported.

But the real juicy speculation has swirled around that second tier, the high-end shows that Facebook will try to buy outright.

According to The Wall Street Journal, in meetings with major talent agencies, Facebook has said it was willing to do production budgets as high as $US3 million per episode, for shows up to 30 minutes in length. That would put Facebook close to Netflix’s first big splash, “House of Cards,” which cost a reported $US4.5 million per episode.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Facebook is interested in “more moderate-cost scripted shows in the mid-to-high six-figure-per-episode range” as well.

One indication that Facebook is shopping in that range: Multiple outlets have reported that Facebook is near a deal to bring “Loosely Exactly Nicole” back for a second season on Facebook. The MTV show was a comedy loosely based on the life on Nicole Byer, and was cut after season of poor ratings.

The per-episode production budget for the show’s first season on MTV was “$US700,000-$US800,000 per episode,” an individual with knowledge of the show told Business Insider. Mina Lefevre, Facebook’s head of development, oversaw “Loosely Exactly Nicole” during her time as an EVP at MTV. Lefevre joined Facebook in February.

If Facebook does drop millions per episode on original shows, it will be a test in whether its platform can sustain that level of quality on advertising alone, since right now Facebook doesn’t seem to have any plans ot launch a subscription service.

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