Facebook has announced a new set of deals with Australian news publishers which will see The Social Network fund the creation of a range of original, Facebook Watch-exclusive news and current affairs programs.
As per Facebook:
"The partnerships include funding to support the creation of exclusive news content for Facebook from a variety of Australian publishers, including traditional news broadcasters and digital-first publishers. The goal is to bring relevant and timely news video to Facebook."
The partners included in the program cover both established TV networks (Seven, Nine, Sky News, Channel 10) and online providers (Pedestrian TV, Junkee Media), which will give Facebook users a variety of news approaches to choose from, ideally maximizing the appeal of these new options. Facebook says that over 16 million Australians come to Facebook "to share what they love and discuss topics that are important to them".
"By partnering with Australia’s leading news and current affairs organizations we believe more Australians will be able to connect to and share timely, relevant and quality news video. We are working with Australian news publishers to offer mobile-first content and support them build sustainable video businesses.”
The deal marks Facebook's latest attempt to cross-over into traditional TV territory, which it's been working towards since the inception of Facebook Watch back in 2017. Facebook's news focus ramped up last year in the wake of its decision to remove its Trending News section. After that announcement, Facebook launched a new slate of exclusive news programming for Watch, which included content from ABC News, CNN, Fox News Channel, Univision, Advance Local, ATTN: and Mic.
Most of those programs are still airing in some form, though Facebook has since scaled back its investment into news content on Watch as it looks to build a more self-sustainable model for the platform.
But the addition of news and current affairs content in the Australian market makes a lot of sense. Last month, Facebook published an in-depth report on the Australian video consumption landscape, which included this overview of the types of content users watch, and on which platforms:
News and current affairs is a key area of focus for Australian consumers - and while free-to-air TV currently holds the crown in this category, if Facebook can tap into these viewing trends, it will stand a better chance of making Watch a more relevant content consideration.
Add to that Facebook's more recent push to develop a connected TV device, which would enable more people to watch Facebook-exclusive content on their home TV sets, and you can see Facebook's angling here.
The approach makes sense, but whether it will get more people switching across to Watch we'll have to wait and see. Either way, the Australian market is a good, smaller-scale testing ground for such initiatives.