Is Facebook Watch The Future of TV?

Facebook Scrabble

By Tricia McKinnon

The TV and video space is getting more crowded.  Facebook launched Facebook Watch in August 2017 to showcase original content produced by its partners.  Some of these partners include CNN, ABC and Fox.  Shows will range from live events like major league baseball, to reality TV, to scripted programs, to news shows featuring Anderson Cooper and other journalists. Over $70 B is spent on TV advertising and as advertising dollars shift from TV to online Facebook is anxious to get its fair share.  

But how will Facebook Watch be different from what you are used to?   Mark Zuckerberg believes that “watching a show doesn’t have to be passive. It can be a chance to share an experience and bring people together who care about the same things.” As a result elements of Facebook Watch shows are similar to the live TV audiences of the past with a modern twist. For example, on the Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk staring Jada Pinkett Smith, Jada has Ask Jada Live shows where she and her family members answer questions from the audience in real time related to past show topics. The show is widely popular with 2.6 M followers and the most popular episode of Red Table Talk has over 23 M views.  Similar to YouTube, adding interactive elements makes viewers feel as if they are part of a community and more connected to the show’s creators. It creates a sense of belonging and loyalty, a powerful combination.

Stealing from Netflix but with a Facebook twist, Facebook Watch also provides personalized recommendations for what viewers should watch based in part on what their friends are watching.  As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together, this feature is likely to expose viewers to shows they might not have thought of but will enjoy.  Overall Facebook Watch combines features from Twitter, YouTube and TV but its main competitor is YouTube.

Innovation should make things more efficient and effective.  But do all of these options make it easier for consumers to watch their favourite shows?  Imagine if your favourite shows are Insecure on HBO, The Crown on Netflix, Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch and the Today Show on NBC. The growing fragmentation in the distribution of this type of content means that consumers need to hunt for their favourite programs.  One of the benefits of watching TV was that everything was in one place.  But like most innovations it will take time before everything fits together in a neat package.   In the meantime Facebook’s venture into video is good for viewers who want new programing and would like to be part of a conversation.  It will also take some time for Facebook to build this platform as consumers will need to shift their viewing habits from TV, YouTube etc. to Facebook. And a critical mass of great content will be key to drawing not only viewers but the stars that the viewers are looking for.


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Tricia McKinnon