Facebook Watch: The YouTube Killer Facebook Has Been Waiting For?

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Facebook Watch’s programming will run the gamut from live event coverage to reality TV to scripted programs to professional sports.  (Photo: Courtesy of Facebook)

Facebook began rolling out a new video service Thursday called Facebook Watch. It’s a calculated attempt to expand the amount of eyeball time we give the world’s dominant social media platform.

The idea is to get you watching and subscribing to high-quality feeds of everything from live videos of your favorite celebrities, to episodic television like National Geographic’s “Safari Live,” to Major League Baseball. Of course, your engagement becomes yet another thing your friends see in their Facebook feeds.

Ian Scherr, executive editor at the online tech news outlet CNET News, says Facebook wants ever more advertising revenue. "There’s definitely a correlation between the amount of time I’m watching and the amount of time I’m spending on Facebook. The real question is whether it’s going to be good enough to draw my attention away from all the big ones," Scherr says.

By that, Scherr means YouTube, HBO and ESPN: you know, the only things that would cause you to peel away from your Facebook feed now. With the launch of Facebook Watch, the tech giant is moving into broadcasting in a big way.


Facebook Watch has already lined up established producers to develop original video content. These partners will earn 55 percent of ad break revenue; Facebook will keep the rest. The “Watch” tab and several dozen original shows will pop up for a small subset of U.S. users, rolling out more widely as time goes on.

Even though this looks more like television, Facebook watchers say this medium still favors short lengths.
Even though this looks more like television, Facebook watchers say this medium still favors short lengths. (Photo: Courtesy of Facebook)

This is all about making the Facebook experience stickier than it is already for its two billion-plus users now. That said, Scherr warns, "It's not a guaranteed success. Especially at this time, when the quality of TV is so high. You have to prove yourself.   Tech companies are not experts at media, and so the question is can you find the right people to run this program for you."

Facebook says it plans to roll out access to Watch to more users and more content creators soon, starting with the rest of the U.S. before expanding internationally. Users with access will see a TV-shaped Watch button in the bottom navigation bar of Facebook’s main app that opens the new video hub.