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Facebook is packing its first original video series lineup with annoying reality shows

By Josh Horwitz

Facebook is gradually turning into television—but so far, it’s looking more The Bachelorette than Breaking Bad.

The social media giant is launching a new service that lets users watch original video series. Called “Facebook Watch,” it’s the company’s latest foray into video, and pits it directly against YouTube, Netflix, and your old-fashioned TV set. For its first series, the company has inked deals to air over a dozen programs, most of which appear to be reality TV oriented.

According to TechCrunch’s thorough rundown, titles include shows from Tastemade (best known for its recipe videos), motivational speaker Gabby Bernstein, world traveler Nuseir Yassin (his Facebook page reads: “I quit my great job to build a great life”), Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, and A&E’s Bae or Bail, described as a “reality TV game show where couples face their fears and see who runs.”

Not all the new shows will be reality TV. Quartz is a content partner, and will produce stories about the global economy. Watch will also broadcast one Major League Baseball game every week.

The company’s announcement states that in its early stages, Facebook will work with third-party partners that make videos exclusively for the social network.

Facebook being Facebook, there will be a lot of personalization and data harvesting to draw eyeballs. The company will recommend shows based on what friends are watching, or what shows are generating a lot of “haha” emoji reactions. Users can also follow shows much like they follow Facebook pages to receive notifications when new episodes come out, and chat live with other viewers during a broadcast.

While only select producers can broadcast videos on Watch for now, eventually, the company states, it will be open to everyone. If producers choose to, they can insert advertisements in their videos to earn money from them. TechCrunch says that Facebook will keep 45% of ad money, while the rest will go to the video maker.

Facebook has been placing videos in users’ feeds for a while, as the company continues to search for new places to make ad money. Signs of a foray into serialized video had been evident for some time. In February, the company hired Mina Lefevre, former head of scripted content at MTV, signaling that Facebook wanted more than just the food clips and cat videos that clog its main feed.

While those videos are perfect for mindless scrolling during idle moments, the videos in Watch are more suited to deliberate viewing. That will move Facebook directly on to YouTube’s turf, as well as Snapchat’s, which is experimenting with original video and video ads. And with its deep knowledge of where users spend their time on the internet, Facebook is well placed to feed people shows they want to watch—even if they might deny liking them.

(This post was updated to note that Quartz is creating video stories for Watch.)