Facebook is ready to premiere its attempt to take on YouTube.
Facebook announced on Wednesday that it will begin rolling out a revamped version of its existing home for videos that caters to the original, episodic shows Facebook has been licensing to make people think of it as a digital video service on par with YouTube, Netflix and Hulu.
Called Watch, Facebook’s new video hub will be available in its mobile apps, on its desktop site and through its connected-TV apps, but for now only “to a limited group of people in the U.S.,” according to a company blog post published after Business Insider and Mashable reported that Facebook would unveil Watch on Thursday.
While people already watch a lot of videos on Facebook, they likely don’t think of Facebook as a place to watch video. It just so happens that their Facebook feeds are full of videos (and it just so happens that more videos means more video ads, which means more money for Facebook). Facebook does want people to think of Facebook as a place to also watch video — but the word “also” is key.
Video can’t completely overtake people’s news feeds because:
- Not everyone that a person is friends with on Facebook posts videos, and if people feel like Facebook is no longer a place to keep up with their friends and family, they might look for another social network to fill that gap.
- If media companies producing TV-style shows have to compete with your aunt’s clips of her cat doing cat things for your attention, they may not win and may decide to take that programming elsewhere, like YouTube or Snapchat.
- Advertisers may be more comfortable buying Facebook’s mid-roll ads when they’re running in the middle of a TV-style show than a closed-circuit video of a judge trying to understand why the defendant has no pants.
- People are more likely to sit through those ads if they’re already in the lean-back mindset of someone using a video service than in the scroll-happy stance of someone checking their Facebook feed.
So Facebook created Watch — which you can think of as Facebook’s YouTube in the same way that Instagram is its Snapchat — and which is split into two main tabs: Discover and Watchlist.
The Discover tab — which is definitely not named after Snapchat’s home for traditional media content — is the main feed for people to browse among the live and pre-recorded shows that creators and media companies are producing for Facebook, such as Major League Baseball’s weekly game broadcast, Tastemade’s cooking show “Kitchen Little” and vlog-style series “Nas Daily.” People will be able to comment on, react to and join Groups around these shows in the same way they do for Facebook Live broadcasts, and viewers will be able to see those comments and reactions while watching a show.
In addition to Facebook hand-picking shows to highlight, the Discover tab will also categorize shows within sections according to what people are watching across its social network and how people are reacting to those shows. “You’ll find sections like ‘Most Talked About,’ which highlights shows that spark conversation, ‘What’s Making People Laugh,’ which includes shows where many people have used the “Haha” reaction, and ‘What Friends Are Watching,’ which helps you connect with friends about shows they too are following,” according to Facebook’s blog post announcing Watch.
Meanwhile the Watchlist tab serves as the Watch section’s DVR. When people opt to follow individual shows, new episodes will be automatically saved to their Watchlist, just like Hulu’s Watchlist.
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