The world’s largest social network is trying to coax its two billion monthly users to stay around and watch more videos.
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is coming for broadcast television. And YouTube. And Netflix. And every other place for video.
On Wednesday, Facebook introduced Watch, a dedicated home for videos in the social network.
Watch is a redesign of the site’s current video tab, altered in a way intended to entice people to watch for longer stretches and return regularly to view shows, including the first programs funded by the company. The idea is that when users open Watch, the latest episodes of their favorite shows will be there waiting for them.
The redesign is part of a push for Facebook to be more than a repository of one-off viral videos by offering higher-quality shows that appeal to deep-pocketed TV advertisers and give viewers a reason to keep coming back. The company said it was rolling out Watch to a limited group of users in the United States before a wider release in the future.
Facebook is betting that adding a social component to online video consumption — the ability to chat with people in your network during a show or knowing what’s popular among your friends — will make the experience notably different from YouTube and Netflix.
For example, Watch will highlight different shows under categories such as “Most Talked About” or “What’s Making People Laugh.” Facebook said the videos that will appear in Watch will be pulled from creators and publishers who have created “Show” pages on Facebook — akin to how some small businesses create a dedicated page.
Facebook said the show pages would also provide a way for dedicated fans to interact with the shows’ creators beyond merely watching the episodes.
“More and more people are coming to Facebook with the intention of watching videos,” said Fidji Simo, who leads Facebook’s video efforts. “This is the next step.”
To encourage more people to create shows for Watch, Facebook said it would expand its video advertisement monetization program, which shares revenue from commercials that appear during videos. Facebook has limited the number of content creators who can take advantage of the program during a testing phase.
Many Facebook users see videos only as they scroll past a friend’s wedding photos or a cousin’s political rant, unlike YouTube users who visit that site for the purpose of watching videos. As advertising dollars earmarked for television move online, Facebook is seeking a way to coax its huge audience — two billion users monthly — to see it as a destination for video.
YouTube has said its mobile viewers watch videos for more than an hour a day on average. Facebook has not disclosed the time its users spend viewing, but it is expected to be much less. The Watch initiative could change that; Facebook said it expects the videos within Watch to be longer than the videos users find in their Newsfeeds.
The shows that will appear in Watch are a mix of videos that are already popular on Facebook — like “Nas Daily,” a series that chronicles the travels of a social media star around the world — and original programs funded by Facebook.
Among the shows Facebook is paying for are “Returning the Favor,” a show about inspiring people starring Mike Rowe, who was the host of “Dirty Jobs.”
Watch will also feature live programming, including one Major League Baseball game a week.