Facebook is about to launch its big attack on TV

Picture: Getty Images

Facebook’s push into becoming a destination for original TV shows begins on Thursday with the launch of its redesigned video tab, Business Insider has learned.

The new tab will be called “Watch” and showcase a slew of shows slated to debut on August 28, people familiar with the matter said. Roughly 40 shows from a range of publishing partners and content studios will be included in the first slate of programming.

Facebook officially confirmed the impending launch of Watch on Wednesday afternoon, following the publication of this report, in a tweet and in a linked blog post. The company didn’t specify a date for the launch saying only that it would happen “soon.” 

The company is introducing Watch “to make it even easier to catch up with shows you love,” Facebook said in its blog post. It added: “We’re excited to see how creators and publishers use shows to connect with their fans and community.”

The Watch feature is intended to showcase episodic videos that follow a theme or story arc, Facebook said in the post. Users will be able to create a watch list to keep up with their favourite shows. 

Facebook will showcase particular videos in different sections within Watch. Among the different sections will be ones for the “most talked about” videos and ones that “friends are watching.”

Users will be able to see comments from other viewers while watching a show and be able to connect with friends who are watching shows with them, Facebook said. 

The company is hoping to offer a wide range of videos through Watch, including live shows that feature hosts responding in real-time to users’ questions and live events like Major League Baseball games. Facebook is also hoping to attract more traditional shows, like those you might see on cable or broadcast TV. 

Courtesy of FacebookFacebook’s new Watch feature will showcase episodic videos.

The social network initially hoped to debut its redesigned video tab and show effort earlier this year, but the date has been moved back several times as more show partners have been brought on board. The August 28 debut could be pushed back as well, but content partners have been told their shows will debut on that date.

Facebook representatives declined to offer any launch details. 

In typical Facebook fashion, only a small percentage of users will see the new Watch tab in the Facebook app immediately after it launches on Thursday. But Facebook plans to slowly make it available to everyone in the coming weeks.

Facebook has been willing to pay millions of dollars for exclusive rights to more premium, longer shows, while less expensive and shorter shows reportedly cost between $US5,000 and $US20,000. The cheaper shows are permitted to be shown outside of Facebook after they exclusively debut in the Watch tab.

The company sees high-quality, scripted video as an important feature to retain users, particularly a younger demographic that is increasingly flocking to rival Snapchat, as well as a means to rake in brand advertising dollars traditionally reserved for traditional TV.

Facebook representatives declined to discuss details regarding advertising on Watch.

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