Facebook is officially stepping up its video game, with the launch of its new platform, Watch.
Facebook has been dipping its toes in the video arena for some time, as the social network attempts to compete with YouTube for online viewers’ attention. Last year, it introduced a new tab in its interface, which showcased video from friends and pages that users like, as well as adverts.
The latter is the key to Facebook’s streaming strategy: video provides a new opportunity for advertisers, with viewers likely to be engaged more with something they’re watching and therefore worth more to sponsors. Facebook’s battle with YouTube is less about beating it and more about joining it as the new place for traditional TV advertising to go.
To do that, though, it needs to build a community of viewers. And so, this week sees the launch of Watch, which is effectively a relaunched version of the old video tab. Watch will not only feature user uploads but also original programming by Facebook. That content is paid for in advance by the social network, as it seeds its app with content – eventually, it will instead seek to pay all original shows with a share of the revenue from adverts.
Watch is personalised to show what each user’s friends and communities are watching, from a “Most Talked About” section, which highlights trending videos, to “What’s Making People Laugh,” which includes shows where many people have used Facebook’s laughter reaction, and “What Friends Are Watching,” which recommends videos watched by friends.
“We’ve learned from Facebook Live that people’s comments and reactions to a video are often as much a part of the experience as the video itself. So when you watch a show, you can see comments and connect with friends and other viewers while watching, or participate in a dedicated Facebook Group for the show,” says Facebook in a statement.
There are a range of shows available, including Nas Daily, which publishes a daily show where he makes videos together with his fans from around the world, Gabby Bernstein, a New York Times bestselling author, motivational speaker, and life coach, who uses a combination of recorded and live episodes to connect with her fans and answer questions in real time, and Tastemade’s Kitchen Little, a series about kids who watch a how-to video of a recipe, then instruct professional chefs on how to make it. Returning the Favor is a series hosted by Mike Rowe, where he finds people doing something extraordinary for their community, tells the world about it, and in turn does something extraordinary for them. Candidates are nominated by Mike’s fans on Facebook. Major League Baseball is also broadcasting a game a week on Facebook.
“We think Watch will be home to a wide range of shows, from reality to comedy to live sports,” says Facebook.
Watch is rolling out this week across Facebook’s apps for Android, iOS, the web, and television.