With almost 2 billion users, Facebook could further disrupt an online video space that's seeing media companies such as HBO offer their content directly to viewers. The new platform will be personalized to each user, suggesting shows they might like based on what their friends are watching, with sections like "Most Talked About" and "What's Making People Laugh".
Facebook pays NPR and other leading news organizations to produce live video streams that run on the site.
Facebook is now working with a select group of publishers and creators who are making shows, its also funding some shows in an effort to "help seed the ecosystem".
The big video providers are unlikely to be anxious about Facebook's platform at this early stage, but with a potential audience of two billion and the social elements it offers, Watch could eventually grow into a real competitor. The site reports that the shows "are being created by partners like A&E Networks, Hearst, National Basketball Association, Business Insider, Mashable, National Geographic, Brit & Co. and other outlets". In announcing the platform, Facebook said it has funded several series, including Returning the Favor, hosted by Mike Rowe.
The new service will feature some live events that Facebook has acquired streaming rights for, including a weekly Major League Baseball game.
Facebook notes in their announcement that their analysis of viewer habits has revealed four types of shows that tend to be successful. Hosting original programming will boost Facebook's ad revenue and also create more reasons for users to log into and check their News Feeds for interesting and unique content.
Facebook has been trying for years to become a major player in digital video, but still lags behind its competitors.
The company says the interaction that takes place on Facebook Live, with people commenting and reacting to videos in real time, was a key consideration in designing the Watch platform.
"We'll be introducing Watch to a limited group of people in the USA and plan to bring the experience to more people soon", Facebook said. Ad Breaks, which are now in beta testing, are up to 20 seconds long.
For now, Facebook is working with a small group of publishers, but says that eventually it hopes to be a platform for all creators and publishers. That pool of producers will get larger, the company says.
There are no content restrictions on swearing or violence, but it will be possible to flag shows.
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