Here comes Facebook TV.
After unveiling its shows initiative earlier this month, Facebook will be making its new hub for videos available to most of its US users over the next few days.
Called Watch, the new area includes a wide range of videos of varying lengths, including scripted series, live shows that feature hosts responding in real time to viewer questions, and Major League Baseball games and other sports events.
Watch, which will be available through Facebook’s mobile app as its own tab, desktop website, and newer TV app, was tested with a small portion of Facebook users in the US over the past couple of weeks. Starting Thursday, hundreds of shows will be available to a broader group of Facebook users, a company spokesperson told Business Insider.
Watch represents Facebook’s push into the market of professional, episodic video, a move that pits the social network against more established players in the space, like Netflix and YouTube.
Facebook sees high-quality, scripted video as important for retaining users, particularly younger ones who are increasingly flocking to rival Snapchat. Facebook also views shows as a way to rake in brand advertising dollars traditionally reserved for conventional TV.
Watch includes a large group of publishers, including digital players like BuzzFeed and more traditional ones like A&E. Some of those publishers will make money solely through ad breaks, while others are funded by Facebook. The company has also partnered with individuals, including ex-YouTube personalities, for super-short shows.
Watch has a few marquee shows, including “Returning the Favour” by former “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe, a behind-the-scenes Real Madrid show narrated by Orlando Bloom, and a series by Humans of New York.
Among the different sections in Watch will be one for the videos most talked about among Facebook friends and another for ones that friends are currently watching. Viewers will also be able to see comments from others Facebook users while watching a show and will be able to create watch lists to keep up with new episodes of their favourite shows.
Each show in Watch will have its own dedicated Facebook page, through which publishers will be able to share new episodes and other content, such as web articles.
Mitú, a digital entertainment company that focuses on Latinos, plans to use its Watch pages like its other, more traditional Facebook pages, head of development Joe Rivadeneria told BI. That could mean posting recipes for an episode of its food show, “What’s Good in Your Hood,” or recommending that followers check out a new episode.
Facebook has been willing to pay millions of dollars for exclusive rights to longer, premium shows. By contrast, it is paying roughly between $US5,000 and $US20,000 per episode for shorter shows. Although it requires cheaper shows to debut exclusively on Watch, Facebook is allowing producers to offer those shows through other platforms shortly after. The more expensive shows will remain exclusive to Facebook.