In news that's probably no surprise to anyone, The Wall Street Journal has today reported that Facebook is working on a new app for television set-top boxes, including Apple TV.
The move makes sense - Facebook has been slowly edging into the TV market since the introduction of Facebook Live back in August 2015. The popularity of video content on the platform (8 billion+ daily views) has inspired The Social Network to put more focus on video, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg noting that he expects Facebook to be 'mostly video' by 2019.
But as we've noted previously, if Facebook wants to take that to next level, they need to also be able to reach people via their home TV sets.
Definitely, online video consumption is rising, but it still trails traditional TV viewing by a fair margin.
Viewing video content is more habitually aligned to TV sets - our homes are built around the TV as a key entertainment and communal device, a barrier which online offerings still need to cross. The ones that have been able to take the challenge to traditional TV are providers like Netflix, which effectively merges the benefits of online connectivity with traditional viewing methods.
Both Facebook and Twitter know that this is a key element in their wider video push - Twitter released their new TV app last September (ahead of their first NFL live-stream), which enables Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Xbox users to cast Twitter streams direct to their TV sets. Facebook followed suit, releasing a new option to cast Facebook videos to your TV via Apple TV or Google Chromecast in October.
That sounds very similar to what's being reported by WSJ today, except that it's not an app, as such, but more of a companion piece for Facebook users to stream video content on their TV set.
There's not much detail to go on as yet, but the development of a more effective TV app has been on the cards at Facebook for some time. Last year, details of a Facebook patent were released which showed their plans for a device that would connect your Facebook interactions to your TV for a more integrated viewing experience.
The advanced development of such a device could be what we're about to see - I noted in my 2017 predictions post that I wouldn't be surprised to see Facebook provide such connective devices for free, purely to drive future uptake. A new Apple TV app would extend their ambitions on this front, but it may just be the first step towards a full TV integration.
But of course, in order for this to be truly effective, Facebook needs longer video content - as noted by Casey Newton at The Verge:
"Video on Facebook today consists mostly of short clips and experimental live streams - both formats that will be difficult to sell advertising revenue against. And advertising is the whole point of the exercise, because Facebook told investors recently that it's running out of places in the News Feed where it could insert new ads."
This is why Facebook's updated their News Feed algorithm to effectively give more precedence to longer video posts, why view counts for short-form videos have been decreasing over time and part of the reason why Facebook's introduced mid-roll video ads on longer videos. Facebook wants - or needs - longer videos in order to maximize the potential of their video platform and make it into a genuine TV competitor.
A recent report by Recode also suggested that Facebook will soon stop paying publishers and celebrities to create live video on the network, instead opting to focus on "longer, premium video content" and "TV-style shows".
Given the various tactical changes, it seems quite obvious where Facebook is headed - and if Facebook can actually get more people watching Facebook video content on their TVs, switching across to Facebook like they would any other TV channel, then the opportunities for marketers could be huge.
Imagine using Facebook's in-depth ad targeting for TV commercials, delivered within Facebook exclusive programming.
The result could be a paradigm shift in TV advertising, and could generate billions of dollars for The Social Network.
We'll keep you updated on any developments as they come up.