Author Mark Fairlie

Facebook is about to make a massive push into the video content market with Facebook Watch. So should Amazon Prime Video and Netflix be worried?

Ever since YouTube was launched back in 2005 (and purchased by Google in 2006), there’s been a marked shift towards watching video online. Whereas linear channels like BBC1, ITV, and Sky 1 still have their place and enjoy viewership in their millions, the share of eyeballs watching live TV continues to diminish.

So, what is the new Facebook Watch service, what can users expect from it, and which of the tech giants should be most worried?

Facebook Watch is an evolution from their existing video platform

In 2016, Facebook launched its own hub where users could watch both live and recorded videos on their mobile phones.

Launched in Facebook Messenger, the centre part of the navigation bar at the top of the screen was given over to a Video tab. The service was designed to be a destination for users to find videos by topic instead of randomly inserted into their Facebook feed by friends or advertisers.

It never really took off and its prominence was slowly reduced on Facebook’s mobile apps over time.

Far more successful was the “Live” tab which allowed users to stream live video of themselves on the site.

For the “Live” service, Facebook provided financial incentives for celebrities and big brand names to put on live productions. Not only did the platform invest money in these broadcasts, it also gave these live streams huge additional prominence by ensuring that they appeared in millions of users’ news feeds.

For their new Facebook Watch service, the company learned its lesson and will be offering a lucrative revenue-sharing model to content producers backed by the type of high visibility tactics it used so successfully with Facebook Live.

Facebook Watch

What type of content can you expect on Facebook Watch?

Content will be broken up into categories like “Shows Your Friends Are Watching”, “The Most Talked About”, and “What’s Making People Laugh”.

To encourage higher viewing figures, users can add their shows to their news feeds so that friends and acquaintances can discover them. Users will also be encouraged to join groups dedicated to particular broadcasts with the promise of connecting with a show’s creators and its other fans.

You’ll be able to add a show to your “Watch List” meaning you’ll receive automatic updates when new episodes are released.

Facebook told TechCrunch that it had already provided funding for a small percentage of the shows to give the service a kick start. Continuing, their spokesman said that

“We want any publisher/creator who is interested to be able to create a show in the future (s)o there will be hundreds of shows at launch, and we’ll hopefully scale to thousands.”

Launch date is pencilled in as August 28th, 2017, and initial shows include:

  • Tastemade’s Kitchen Little – kids watch a video on how to make a particular dish and then instruct a professional chef on how to make it (with “comedic” results)
  • Major League Baseball – one live game a week and a comedy analysis show
  • Mike Rowe – offers special experiences to those who have given back to their community
  • A&E’s “Bae or Bail” – a reality show where couples face their deepest fears to see who runs away from them
  • National Geographic – documentaries about strange human traits and live safaris led by the channel’s guides
  • Tommy Mack – making furniture through woodwork

Shows on Facebook Watch’s launch list are very lifestyle-orientated and there are currently no plans for the company to invest in long-form drama or film like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

Industry commentators believe that Facebook is looking to compete against YouTube with their Watch service. Rich Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG, told the Financial Times that

“It feels like much more of a direct attack on YouTube than on Netflix. YouTube has a huge lead with a billion and a half people watching an hour every day so this is no easy task.”