What Facebook is looking for in the TV-like series it's bankrolling, according to an exec who just got a show renewed


  • Facebook has greenlit season two of Attn:’s relationship show “We Need to Talk” starring Nev Schulman and Laura Perlongo.
  • Attn: CEO Matthew Segal tells Business Insider that Facebook is emphasising loyal audiences, interactivity, and longer episodes.

Starting in the fall, Facebook began to greenlight a handful of second seasons for its TV-like “Watch” shows. And now “We Need to Talk,”Attn:’s relationship advice series starring Nev Schulman (of “Catfish” fame) and his wife Laura Perlongo, has gotten a 10-episode order.

Business Insider talked to Attn: CEO Matthew Segal about what it took to get a renewal from Facebook, which has been selective about the series that have made it past season one. Segal said the most important factor was this: “a loyal, repeat audience.”

“I know it’s something that Facebook’s looking at,” Segal explained. “Can viewers return from one episode to the next in the habitual way that implies fandom.”

This makes sense when you consider what Facebook wants Watch to be. The tech giant is focused on making the Watch tab something that doesn’t just rely on the same behaviour as the news feed. Facebook wants people to check back for new episodes, like they do on YouTube or traditional TV. (One Watch partner told Business Insider that Facebook would prefer a show with fewer “views,” if the audience were coming back week after week, and didn’t rely on the virality of a particular episode.)

Talk to your viewers

Segal said the other big factor was the “interactivity” of a show. This leans into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new mandate of promoting meaningful interactions.

“Before we went into production on season one, we had Nev and Laura ask people” what dating topics to cover, Segal said. And in season two, Attn: is going deeper into the fan feedback aspect.

“For season two it’s going to be even more interactive,” Segal said. “We are literally going to ask users to comment on their own experiences, and advice.” Segal said the hosts will ask the audience about topics like how to ask people out, changing gender roles, money troubles, and so on. And there will be segments on the show when Nev and Laura are responding to reader feedback in real-time (though the episodes won’t be live).

“We Need to Talk” isn’t the only show that has used interactivity to find success.

According to a Watch partner, Mike Rowe’s show “Returning the Favour” has been used by Facebook as an example of a show that’s doing really well. Rowe asks for fan feedback on every show. “We’ve already proven the best way to get people interested in RTF is to ask them to program each episode,” he recently told Tubefilter.

Simply bigger

Season two of “We Need to Talk” will also be longer, with episodes falling more in the 10-12 minute range versus 3-6 minutes.

“We’ve hired a whole writers room for this season, and there’s lot of jokes peppered in,” Segal said, though some of the show is unscripted as well.

There is definitely a bigger budget for this season, though Segal didn’t comment on the exact figure. But in general, Facebook seems to be throwing more funding at shows it thinks can move the needle in terms of repeat viewers and interactivity.

As one Watch partner put it: “The shows they don’t like are shows with a passive viewing experience.”

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