August 10, 2017 01:49 GMT by theguardian.com

Facebook takes on TV and YouTube with revamped video offering

Facebook takes on TV and YouTube with revamped video offering

The new feature, Watch, lets users discover videos from outside their feed more easily, and will also dabble in original content

Facebook has revamped its video offering, creating a new, TV-like rival to YouTube and dabbling in original content in a bid to get people to spend even more time on the social network.

The Facebook feature, dubbed Watch, will let users discover videos from outside of their feed more easily, create watchlists, and have an easier way to follow shows created by artists, brands and publishers.

Facebook has funded a number of original “community-oriented” shows “to help inspire creators and seed the ecosystem”. Partners who produce original video content exclusively for Facebook will earn 55% of revenue generated by ad breaks inserted into the content, leaving Facebook with the rest.

By attracting and hosting original programming, Facebook gives users a reason to spend more time within its walled garden – time that can be used to show them more ads, boosting the social network’s already astronomical revenue.

Watch replaces the Videos tab within the Facebook mobile app, which launched last year. It will also be available on desktop and via Facebook’s TV apps, including those made for Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.

The Videos tab in the Facebook app already acts as a hub for video content, however Watch makes it easier to discover trending content, or videos friends are watching, and enables users to save specific shows into a watchlist that will send notifications when new episodes are added.

Instead of providing a simple stream of video content, as the Videos tab currently does, Watch organizes content into sections like “most talked about” or “what’s making people laugh” (based on how many people have clicked the “haha” emoji reaction on the video).

“Watch is a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work,” said director of product Daniel Danker, in a blog post announcing Watch.

He cited examples of shows on Watch including those made by author and motivational speaker Gabby Bernstein and Tastemade’s Kitchen Little, a show where kids instruct professional chef’s how to make a recipe. He also mentioned live events such as the weekly broadcast of a Major League Baseball game.

Facebook has been rumoured to be launching a TV-like service for several months. However, with its emphasis on wooing community-based creators and encouraging users to interact with them, Watch seems more like YouTube than Netflix.

In addition to highlighting existing content, Facebook said it was commissioning some shows, including a series by TV host Mike Rowe called Returning the Favor, where he interviews people doing something extraordinary for his community and rewards them.

The focus on community ties into Facebook’s revamped 2017 mission to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”.

“Watching a show doesn’t have to be passive,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a Facebook post. “It can be a chance to share an experience and bring people together who care about the same things.”

While those “things” can be cute videos of kids bossing chefs around, Zuckerberg makes no mention of the possibility those things might also be a shared hatred of a minority or religious group.

Watch launches to select users in the US this week before being rolled out to the platform’s 2 billion users.

Read more at theguardian.com