Facebook set to take on Netflix and Amazon

By Nick Whigham

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference. Photo / Getty
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference. Photo / Getty

Facebook is the latest to take aim at Netflix and signal its intention to enter the video streaming wars.

The social media giant has plans to produce top tier scripted TV shows and hopes to have its first slate of programs ready to go by as early as mid June, according to a report by Business Insider.

Included in Facebook's new push into content creation is the signing of A-list celebrities and a dating show that takes place in virtual reality before the contestants meet in real life.

Facebook has continually said video is a big focus and the company has reportedly green lit the production of about two-dozen shows.

It's thought the content will appear on a revamped version of Facebook's video tab and will likely also appear on its video app on Apple TV which the company released in March.

Facebook did not officially comment on the story but the report cites multiple unnamed sources close to the project.

According to them, Facebook's strategy involves producing two categories of shows: long form traditional programs such as Netflix's flagship program House of Cards and shorter less expensive shows that go for about five to 10 minutes and refresh every 24 hours.

It is unclear if Facebook has any intentions to seek a subscription-based model for its content but it's likely it will instead rely on advertising revenue and put ads in the middle of shows.

Ricky Van Veen who co-founded popular comedy website CollegeHumor is reportedly in charge of securing exclusive shows after being hired by Facebook in December. The content is expected to largely target the teen and young adult demographic to counter the success of Snapchat in courting younger users.

One source said the company was "obsessed" with its Snapchat rival - which in recent months has signed original show deals with a host of broadcasters including Discovery, BBC, ESPN and Vice Media.

The impending entry of Facebook into the increasingly competitive SVOD market comes after Amazon Prime recently announced it will commit $6 billion to its video-on-demand service in 2017.

Twitter last year had a deal with the hugely popular National Football League to live stream Thursday night games on the social media platform. It has since lost that deal to Amazon but the social media site (still searching for a viable road to profitability) has signalled its intention to go after others sports to live stream including the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

While Netflix has repeatedly ruled out entering the live sports game, Facebook sees it as a potential growth area.

In a recent earnings call, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said: "Sports is probably something that we'll want to try at some point."

Another major competitor to Facebook's streaming ambitions is, of course, YouTube. Last week, the Google-owned platform announced seven new original shows including celebrities such as Katy Perry, Kevin Hart and Ellen DeGeneres. The shows will appear on the free version of the service and will be ad-supported.

Facebook has 17 million Australian monthly active users and nearly reached a staggering two billion users worldwide. It already has a massive global audience, but it remains to be seen if they can be persuaded to use the site as a destination for traditional TV entertainment.

- news.com.au

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