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Facebook introduces ‘Watch’ video product for short series

Social network expects friends, groups to view together.

Facebook will introduce a new video hub on the world’s largest social network Thursday, offering some US users short episodic series from content partners including A&E, Major League Baseball and National Geographic, in a bid to capture more online advertising dollars.

The new section, called Watch, is meant to increase the amount of time users spend watching video by giving them a place to follow and discuss original shows, which can then be shared via their news feeds and in Facebook groups, according to product director Daniel Danker. It will organise shows by what’s most talked about, what friends are watching and what the user is following.

“As people come to Facebook more and more to watch video, they want a reliable place to watch,” Danker said in an interview.

Facebook paid to seed some of the original content that will appear in the section. Among the episodes: “My Social Media Life,” a reality show about internet celebrity David Lopez, and “Great Cheese Hunt,” in which Business Insider seeks out some of the world’s best cheese. Eventually, Facebook will roll out Watch to more users and show producers.

“We’re hoping to see thousands of shows created” as the product gets off the ground, Danker said. “The shows that we helped fund are really a small portion of that, and will be a shrinking portion over time.”

Facebook intends for the publishers to make money by splitting revenue from ads placed in the videos, or from creating videos with advertisers from the get-go. Facebook will bring in about 20% of the $83 billion advertisers spend online in the US this year, according to EMarketer. Google receives about 41% of that revenue.
 
The social media giant is just one of many technology companies funding original shows, from Snap to Google’s YouTube to Amazon.com. Facebook’s approach bears more resemblance to YouTube than Netflix or Amazon given its focus on short-form videos designed to be shared online. The company also is backing a handful of TV-length episodes, but doesn’t want to fund videos in the long term.

Facebook hopes to keep users watching video on its apps for longer — and win more advertising dollars — by making the content more social, encouraging commenting and sharing as the shows air.

“The friend features will differentiate it,” said Matthew Segal, co-founder of ATTN, a digital media company. “You can do everything through the prism of your friends.”

ATTN produced a couple of shows for Facebook, a health program hosted by actress Jessica Alba and a modern relationship advice show with Nev Schulman, producer of “Catfish.” Both are short-form, serialized programs that will be made available later this year.

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