Watch out, Netflix: Facebook is jumping on the original content bandwagon with its first exclusive spotlight shows set to premiere in mid-August 2017. Facebook hopes the move will help it siphon more revenue from the $70-billion TV advertising market and give it more space for ads beyond the crowded newsfeed.
Of course, Facebook TV was supposed to go live last month, so there’s no guarantee people will be watching it by summer’s end, but it’s definitely on its way sooner or later. The social media giant has been asking its partners to submit their pilot episodes if they haven’t done so, though many have completed their short-form spotlight shows already.
The first season of Facebook original content will feature short “spotlight” episodes of five to 10 minutes, which are inexpensive to produce and can help the company get a feel for how the new offering will fare, Bloomberg reported.
Facebook TV will serve up a blend of scripted and user-generated content, to be displayed under a forthcoming “Video” tab alongside users’ newsfeeds. The platform plans to fund longer-form, higher-end series with a more standard half-hour run time down the road.
Though the company intends to create something a little more curated and high-end than YouTube, it does not actually expect to compete with Netflix and other paid video producers like HBO and Showtime. Instead, it’s going after younger viewers (and upstart producers) who are already watching and sharing original content on YouTube, Snapchat and other portals.
No, Netflix won’t be a casualty of Facebook TV. But traditional cable companies, already floundering in the face of streaming on-demand video services, will probably feel the blow, along with ad-supported online services. YouTube probably stands to lose the most users, although it’s possible that young content creators and viewers will opt to diversify and straddle the two.
Sources close to the matter told Bloomberg that Facebook particularly hopes to appeal to young women with shows similar to “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Bachelor.”
CNET reports that Facebook will be sourcing some of its new original programs from Buzzfeed, Vox, Attn and Group Nine Media (creator of Thrillist, NowThis and The Dodo).
These partners will be producing shorter, cheaper video content at a $10,000 to $20,000 per-episode price tag, Bloomberg said, and will eventually pick up the rights to air these “spotlight” shows on their own platforms after Facebook’s exclusive rights expire. Meanwhile the long-form “hero shows” will come from established TV producers and will cost Facebook a couple hundred thousand dollars per episode.
Those numbers reflect a shifting strategy on CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s part. Although Zuckerberg indicated plans to accelerate investments in Messenger during Wednesday’s Q2 earnings call (a move that Karen Webster analyzed in her column this morning), the Facebook CEO also said that video, not Messenger, will be the biggest driver of business over the next few years, according to Variety.
Yet video also has the potential to cannibalize revenue if the company isn’t careful. Users spending their time watching videos will by necessity be spending less time scrolling the newsfeed, so those ads won’t be getting the same visibility. The introduction of video is the beginning of a total restructuring of costs, Zuckerberg said, with a lower margin source of revenue than the current model.
Facebook is working with Hollywood and Netflix execs to guide its foray into TV territory. On board are Ricky Van Veen, co-founder of the comedy site College Humor; Sarah Madigan, an executive at Netflix; and Mina Lefevre, a former MTV executive.
The first series to air will be the MTV castoff, “Loosely Exactly Nicole.” MTV cancelled the comedy starring actress Nicole Byer after one season. The network described the show as: “Nicole Byer is living the Hollywood dream. Well, Hollywood adjacent – the deep valley to be precise, and it’s not so much a dream but a struggle.”
“Nicole, exuding her special brand of confidence and irreverence, demonstrates the hilarious missteps of what it means to be out on your own for the first time. She’ll deal with humiliating auditions, unpaid electric bills, friendship ups and downs, and the battlefield that is Tinder as she slowly but surely finds her voice as a comedian.”