YouTube is apparently the second most powerful search engine on the web. It is ubiquitous in its presence, and the sheer amount of video content it contains, from the useful to the useless, is utterly vast. Whilst it produces its own shows and pays for content, it is still very much primarily about user generated videos. Facebook isn't after playing that game.
As another ordinary day unfolds, Facebook has announced that it is about to take video seriously. Very seriously. No doubt video content has been an important part of the popular social networking site for a long while. Whether for users uploading footage of their dog going skiing, or the biggest Hollywood studio marketing its latest blockbuster, video is a constant presence whenever we log on to our accounts there.
The newly announced platform, Watch, is aiming to distribute original shows of a professional standard. In other words, Facebook is looking to take on content that is engaging, has a purpose, and that can actively bring online social communities together. They will range from reality shows, sporting events, comedies, and documentaries, including content from high-quality producers such as National Geographic. Budgets and production values will eventually vary across the board, but Facebook would appear to be distancing itself from the idea of poorly produced, one off, home videos.
This isn’t just another method for users to film themselves falling off a bicycle or doing a live broadcast from the local takeaway. Instead Watch would se, m to be taking a broadside at television itself.
Initially Facebook will only be making Watch available to a limited group of people in the US before rolling it out further. Facebook is providing initial funding for the content, but as the system is further distributed amongst users, content will be either ad sponsored with advertisement breaks, or Facebook brand sponsored. The system will integrate with the main social network by providing alerts for new content on show pages that have been subscribed to, while the new videos become listed in a Watchlist within the Watch app itself. Videos can be pre-recorded, or live,
It would seem that Facebook are keen to make sure that the content produced is engaging to the audience. While production is open to all to apply for, initially the number of producers will be limited as they roll the system out. It appears that this isn’t just a case of being able to create a show page and then uploading any old video you have shot.
In time there could be some very interesting possibilities, should producers obtain the funding. For example, with the accurate location targeting of the social media platform, there is a much more realistic possibility of local news and current affairs content being more easily produced and distributed. Truly local news is something that has been tried multiple times, but it has never really gained traction. However, the new platform would offer a much more realistic possibility for third parties, or even established local newspapers, to properly and easily distribute content.
Further, could this be a way for lower budget independent filmmakers to have a ready made distribution system? Sites such as Vimeo do offer content producers the opportunity to sell their work, or pay per view. But it has never lived up to its potential, and the number of potential viewers is limited. By combining an extremely established social media network into the equation, could this be the answer that some producers are looking for? Of course the noose hanging over the neck on such an idea is whether the advertising or sponsorship revenue makes it worth its while. Or whether Facebook will eventually allow rental or purchase. Time will tell.
In recent times Facebook has faced increasing competition from rival social media systems, especially as younger generations move away from the platform, viewing it as something that their parents use. Such a development from the social media giant, should it be a success, is sure to further cement the company as a normal part of our daily lives. And yes, that could be a frightening thought to some!
For more information, check out the official Facebook Announcement.