This may prove to be one of best ways for Facebook to get more viewers across to Facebook Watch, while also exercising a level of editorial control over news content (without overtly doing so).
Following the announcement that they would be removing their Trending News section late last week, Facebook has now outlined its new slate of exclusive news programming for Watch, which will include content from ABC News, CNN, Fox News Channel, Univision, Advance Local, ATTN: and Mic.
Facebook has been negotiating with potential news partners for months, and will be paying between $1 million and $3 million for one-year contracts with the initial providers, according to reports.
As explained by Facebook:
“This first lineup of funded shows includes news publishers from broadcast to digital native, national and local. The shows will be hosted by award-winning journalists, as well as new faces, and the formats will vary from a mix of daily briefings, weekly deep dives, and live breaking news coverage. They'll debut later this summer, and we'll announce additional shows in the coming weeks.”
As you can see here, the new programs will also get prominent exposure through the dedicated Watch tab, available on the bottom function bar. Not all users are seeing this version of the bottom bar as yet, and the initial roll-out of content will focus on the U.S., but you can already start to get a hint as to how Facebook will look to replace its Trending with dedicated video news updates, from trusted, vetted providers, likely helping to limit the spread of fake news.
Essentially replacing Trending is a big deal. Whether you use Facebook for news coverage or not, the data shows that a lot of people do - as per Pew Research, around 65% or Americans use Facebook, with some 45% of the population also getting news content from the site.
That makes Facebook a source of significant influence over the news cycle – again, you may not use Facebook for this purpose, but a huge amount of everyday people are getting news insights from the app. If Facebook can better control what news people see, they can set more parameters around such coverage – without directly selecting what news to show and exclude, as their editorial team reportedly has done in the past.
And as noted, the side benefit lies in getting people across to Facebook Watch.
Thus far, Facebook’s dedicated video platform hasn’t generated significant traction, and other providers, including YouTube, are quickly moving to dominate the digital video space.
If Facebook truly wants to compete, and get in on the additional ad dollars connected with video programming, they need to push Facebook Watch now, and get more of their 2.2 billion users coming to Watch on a regular basis.
Given this, it’s a smart move from Facebook, killing two birds with one stone. Ideally.
Again, Facebook Watch hasn’t been able to gain traction yet, and there’s no guarantee that it will. And while Facebook is paying for these initial news programs, those providers are also putting a level of trust in Facebook, which many have become increasingly hesitant to do. Facebook will eventually stop paying for such content, making it ad-funded, and if Watch doesn’t work out as hoped, they could just as easily abandon it, leaving all of those who’ve built a level of reliance on the option out in the cold.
Logically, providers will remain hesitant to invest too heavily in Watch for this reason. Could that see them put less effort into promoting Watch content? Could that see Facebook lose out because of their past treatment of news organizations and publishers?
It’s a smart move from Facebook, but there’s much to be seen as yet as to whether it will pay off as intended.
But if it does, it could open up a whole new world of opportunity for video advertisers on the site.