Facebook’s 2 billions users spend about 50 minutes a day on Facebook, which begs the question: what does Facebook want you to do with the other 23 hours and 10 minutes of your day?
On Wednesday, the company’s plans for that remaining time became clearer. Yep, it’s here: meet Facebook Watch.
Facebook Watch marks the social network’s entry into the high-end video scene. It’s an arms race that already includes Netflix, Amazon, Twitter, Snapchat, Hulu, Google (YouTube), Apple, Comcast, Verizon, Sony, and many more.
Watch features original and exclusive video series, from a handful of big-name partners that span the media landscape. Digital natives like BuzzFeed and Tastemade are making content for Facebook, as are legacy companies, like Hearst and A&E. (Disclosure: Mashable is also a Watch partner.)
When considering just how massive Facebook is, and all the insane technology it’s working on (remember skin that can hear?), it’s a small step. But in terms of Facebook’s bigger ambitionsmostly, to keep people on its platform for more time, which means more moneyit’s a huge leap.
The reality for Facebook and every other tech and media giant is that most people now have every waking moment of their lives spoken for, thanks especially to the ubiquity of smartphones. It’s why Netflix CEO Reed Hastings likes to joke that the company’s biggest competitor is sleep. Netflix gets 93 minutes per day from its users, not to mention $10 bucks a month.
And that time devoted to Netflix is something Facebook can’t abide. They’re gunning for that 93 minutes, and they’re done trying to optimize the News Feed to win it. As you and everyone you know become less engaged with Facebook, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been pushing a new initiative around Groups, the News Feed suddenly seeming like its time has come and gone.
In its wake? A fresher approach … and new enemies for Zuckerberg and Co. to contend with.
Watch has the chance to put Facebook somewhere it’s missing (and where Netflix dominates)the living room. Facebook rolled out an app for Apple TV in February, which can be found right alongside the apps for Netflix, Amazon, and the rest of the techno-media giants, which are now Facebook’s new enemy-combatants. Watch means Facebook now has content for it.
It also puts them in position to grab an important market that tech has struggled to attractbillions of dollars in TV ads. If Facebook can grow Watch even without tentpole or “prestige” shows, there’s a future where its TV-like audience combined with its trove of user data makes for an irresistible combination to the people spending advertisers’ money.
That doesn’t happen without people watching stuff. And there’s the rub: can Facebook bring it’s audience to Watch?
Facebook’s made a leap this big before, taking its massive desktop audience to mobile. But this is also a vastly different kind of trick. Instead of just soliciting media companies to put their stuff on Facebook, they’re now paying companies to make original content and building a whole new experience for it. That’s why they hired an outsider like CollegeHumor’s Ricky Van Veen to run it.
At its core, Watch is the admission by Facebook that they missed the mark on how people would spend time on the internet. They thought it’d be all mobile, all social, all the time. Truth is, people still just wanna sit down and watch something great on their couch, in their living room, and sometimes on the go.
It’s also a major step away from Facebook’s “we’re just a platform” mantra, which has always been a big part of their dogma (it’s also helped them make a social network out of content they didn’t have to compensate their partners for producing). Facebook is now fully in the media business of paying other companies to make things exclusively for them. It’s the same thing Netflix has been doing with its original content push.
Success is, of course, not guaranteed. Facebook’s history is littered with efforts to capture audiences in different waysthink mobile games and live video. It’s also Facebook’s first major effort to commission its own contenta hard and expensive business. Facebook’s checks are still tiny compared to Netflix and Amazon, but Facebook has the cash to compete with the billions of dollars they’re shelling out.
And it looks like Amazon and Netflix will need to keep spending those billions, or else Facebook is going to start eating into that finite amount of time every person has in their day. Sure, Facebook may seem like a new player in a big industry but just remember: Nobody thought they’d use Amazon for anything other than ordering books, or Netflix for anything more than renting DVDs. Facebook’s now taking their shot at becoming part of that pattern, too. And you get to decide just how well they willor won’tfit into it.