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Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking up the company’s plans to become a more “video-centric” company. We’ve already seen the spectacular rollout of its Facebook Live feature, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. That’s because Facebook now wants to take over your TV.
The Facebook TV strategy
In a quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts on January 31, Zuckerberg talked about his vision for Facebook. He saw it competing with TV for advertising dollars. While Facebook is already an advertising machine on social media, there’s only so much money you can make by cranking out tiny little Facebook ad units. The big money is in having advertisers clamor to sell ads against your TV content.
In many ways, Zuckerberg sees Facebook as a content producer for TV. What Zuckerberg emphasized was “episodic content” – the type of content you keep coming back to watch, over and over again. So, more along the lines of a hit TV show, less along the lines of blockbuster Hollywood films.
Anytime people want to watch video content, Facebook wants to be there. For now, it means making changes to the Facebook news feed to put more of an emphasis on video. It means doubling down on the whole Facebook Live strategy.
And it also means coming up with new advertising units that can monetize all that content. For now, says Zuckerberg, the focus will be on “mid-roll” ads that appear midway through a show. Nobody is going to watch a mid-roll during a friend’s goofy amateur video, but guess what? If you’ve got a 30-minute professional video format, that’s just perfect for a mid-roll. Today we call them TV commercials.
Facebook as the new Netflix
But who in the world is going to create all this content? That’s where Facebook is going to go all Netflix on us. Just as Netflix has been producing some pretty amazing original content – think “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” – Facebook could also start to think of itself as a content studio that pays for high-quality video content.
In a way, this is brilliant. Nobody is going to watch a bunch of amateur videos with poor sound and production quality for more than a few minutes at a time. But people are more than willing to watch professional TV shows and series for hours every night. Just look at how well Netflix is doing these days. And now Hulu is getting into the original content business as well.
Facebook, meet Apple TV
And there’s one more way that Facebook wants to take over your television. Yes, according to a Wall Street Journal report from January 30, the company plans to start developing an app for set-top boxes like Apple TV or Roku. Just as you’d open up your Apple TV and have the option to watch Netflix, you’d conceivably have the option to watch “Facebook TV.”
And there you have it – Facebook would have just taken over your TV. Theoretically, if the content becomes good enough, you’d even start paying for subscriptions to Facebook TV, the way you buy subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu or HBO. One thing is clear: anyone who has ever predicted “the death of TV” has seriously underestimated the power of the medium. And now Facebook wants to transform TV once again, this time through social media.