As it seeks to generate more interest in its dedicated video platform, Facebook is launching a new program which will fund a range of original Facebook Watch shows, focused more specifically on entertainment, as opposed to news and current affairs.
As reported by Digiday, the program - referred to as 'Facebook Match' - will see Facebook spend up to $200,000 per show, partnering with brands like BuzzFeed, Condé Nast and Complex Networks, to produce original Facebook Watch programming featuring celebrities and other influencers.
"Facebook describes this program as a video incubator to fund collaborations between publishers and video creators. At the beginning, the program features 12 publishers, including smaller publishers such as Attn, Shots Studios and The Players’ Tribune, as well as digital networks such as All Def Digital, Studio71 and Whistle Sports. Viacom, through its Viacom Digital Studios unit, is also involved in the program. Initial pairings between publishers and video stars include BuzzFeed and YouTuber Hannah Hart, Condé Nast and singer Keke Palmer and Tastemade and actress Angela Kinsley."
The announcement comes after Facebook recently confirmed that it would only seek to renew around a third of the existing news programs that it has thus far funded for Facebook Watch. Some saw this as a sign that Facebook may be scaling back its Watch investment, but instead, Facebook is re-focusing its content efforts onto more entertainment-driven content, aligning more specifically with the Facebook Watch audience.
And there is an audience there - according to TechCrunch, Watch currently serves over 400 million monthly viewers who are consuming at least one minute of content, with 75 million of those averaging around 20 minutes watch time each day. As we've noted previously, 75 million dedicated viewers may not be a huge success - a tiny fraction of Facebook's more than 2.3 billion total active audience - but for comparison, 'The Big Bang Theory', one of the most watched US TV shows, averaged around 18m viewers per episode in 2018.
Indeed, Facebook says that its Nielsen-verified Watch audience numbers are already close to reaching 'TV-like scale', and it's adding in new shows featuring big-name stars like Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick and Will Smith.
It may not seem like Facebook Watch is gaining significant momentum, nor that it's likely to become a key digital advertising consideration just yet. But it is growing - slowly, but surely, Facebook is building its video platform.
The implications of that could be significant - if Facebook can create a TV-like alternative, and attract a good, repeat audience, that could provide a range of new video ad opportunities. Facebook's already launched its new 'Facebook Showcase' ad option for Facebook Watch programs, and as more viewers tune in to catch these new, celebrity-driven shows, that will further expand Facebook's ad potential, which could eventually see smaller advertisers able to use the platform's advanced ad targeting to launch TV-like campaigns, and boost brand awareness in a more specific, cost-effective way.
It doesn't seem like Watch is close to troubling even YouTube on this front yet, let alone legacy TV channels. But Facebook clearly sees potential, and the more it can refine and build its audience, the more relevant it will become.
It's definitely worth keeping an eye on Facebook's developments on this front.