Updated Aug. 9, 2017, at 6:17 p.m. PDT with additional show details.
Updated Aug. 9, 2017, at 4:23 p.m. PDT with more information from Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg has been preaching video as our future for the last couple years. On Thursday, he’s launching the next big step in the company’s quest to dominate every last second of your waking life.
Facebook is set to debut original shows made by media partners exclusively for the social network, marking the company’s official entry into the high-end online video world that already includes rivals Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Apple.
It is also a product update, meaning the video tab in Facebook’s mobile app will feature a new section called “Watch” to highlight the initiative. “Watch” will also appear on desktop and Facebook’s TV apps.
The company confirmed the update Wednesday, saying it will start to roll out to a small group of users Thursday before expanding it more widely. “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,” Facebook’s Director of Product Daniel Danker wrote.
Mashable has confirmed ATTN, BuzzFeed, Refinery29, Tastemade, and Group Nine (which overseas Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo, and Seeker) are involved. (Mashable was also previously reported by Digiday to be a Facebook partner in this program.)
Mashable will have two shows on the platform later this year: a weekly show called What’s Your Mutt, and another called D.I.Y. Costume Squad. Both shows will be produced at the company’s studio in Culver City, Calif.
What’s Your Mutt is a talkshow-like series hosted by Kerri Doherty (who previously hosted Mashable’s live Twitter show at SXSW) and featuring veterinarian Karen Halligan. Together, the two will uncover the exact breed of a special guest’s dog using DNA testing.
D.I.Y. Costume Squad is a show dedicated to helping viewers make complex costumes using items they may have at home or can find in a thrift store. The show, which will air this fall, will be hosted by Mashable’s Dustin McLean and Claire Max, with guest appearances from notable cosplayers.
Facebook has been tip-toeing into original video content. The company paid publishers, including Mashable, to create live videos shortly after Facebook’s live product was released. Now, Facebook is making a much bigger push into TV-like shows including reality content as well as scripted programs.
Why? One big reason is money. Facebook makes the majority of its revenue from digital advertising, which has been mostly of the direct response type. With this initiative, the company is now better able to cut into the $70 billion TV advertising market that tech companies are salivating for.
The company is going after the $70 billion TV advertising market that tech companies are salivating for.
The initiative has been a long time coming for Facebook and its partners. Facebook hired CollegeHumor cofounder Ricky Van Veen as its head of global creative strategy in June 2016. Mina Lefevre, formerly head of scripted for MTV, joined as head of development in February this year.
Ricky Van Veen’s team has been meeting with media outlets and Hollywood studios and has inked deals for exclusive shows, not unlike what you see on television.
It’s been up in the air over the last several months on when these shows will debut. A source close to the entertainment industry saidFacebook’s initiative was expected to launch at Cannes, an industry advertising festival held in June. A different participating publisher told Mashable that they had not learned of the confirmed launch time until this week.
All the publishers that spoke with Mashable requested anonymity due to their business relationships with Facebook. There will also be shows that appear under a “branded content” tag.
Some of Facebook’s original series have been revealed prior to their debut, such as a show featuring Lonzo Ball, a former UCLA basketball player who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, Deadline reported. But publishers involved in the launch had been instructed by Facebook to stay silent until Thursday.
As to what it will look like, one publisher likened the experience to Snapchat Discover, the app’s network of media partners that create exclusive editions, some daily (Mashable is a Snapchat Discover partner). That comparison is due to the 24-hour, ephemeral nature of the content and the shorter length of each episode. Each episode will last between 3 to 10 minutes, on average.
“My understanding is [Facebook will] highlight a certain number of shows each day. Those shows will be there for 24 hours and then not be there anymore and new shows will replace them,” said one publisher, who asked not to be identified since Facebook has not allowed any participants to talk on the record until the launch.
Some publishers will have weekly shows, meaning they will appear for 24 hours every Monday, for example. Others will have shows more akin to a one-off special that will air over the course of a couple days.
Facebook has licensed deals with these participating publishers, meaning it pays them a minimum guarantee. Some publishers have been paid $5,000 per episode, others $35,000 per episode, depending on the length of the show, according to a participant. Reuters previously reported these numbers.
The shows also will feature mid-roll ads, where Facebook and publishers will split the revenue. There will also be shows tagged as “branded content.”
A participating publisher told Mashable they were thankful to be involved with the launch due to the exclusivity of the partnership.
“It was extremely competitive getting a meeting with the team,” the publisher said. “Facebook, like it or not, is the biggest opportunity in video.”
Additional reporting by Karissa Bell.