If you’ve been on Facebook in the last week, you might have noticed a TV-shaped Watch button appear at the bottom of the mobile app, or in the left-hand column on desktop.
It’s where Facebook is housing new original shows and other video series that are being produced for, and in some cases funded by, the social network. The shows put Facebook in direct competition with YouTube, Netflix and your regular old TV set. Earlier this year, the company launched a new video app to bring Facebook to more TV sets and set the stage for the push.
Facebook’s new Watch hub features mostly unscripted reality shows, documentaries, as well as a few scripted shows. Episodes run for 10-minutes or longer and are comparable to what you’d find on a typical TV network. The hub also has shorter-form series by newsier partners like Business Insider and Refinery29 (and Quartz) that are not too different from the videos in Facebook’s news feed, but are meant to be listened to as well as watched (more on that below).
Like TV, Facebook Watch rolls out episodes regularly and can be watched live or on-demand. And, because it’s Facebook, you can follow series so as not to miss a beat. But unlike TV, there’s no TV guide to turn to for programming listings. (See Quartz’s guide on how to use Facebook Watch.)
Reality and documentary shows
Ball in the Family is a reality show about the family of young Los Angeles Laker Lonzo Ball, whose braggadocious father has compared his son to Steph Curry, one of the top players in the National Basketball Association, and basketball legend Michael Jordan. You can’t say the man doesn’t believe in his kids. With big names and the NBA’s enormous fanbase, the series is a good get for Facebook.
The social network also landed a show based on photographer Brandon Stanton’s popular photo series Humans of New York, which chronicles the lives of the eclectic residents of America’s largest city, and often beyond. The documentary series, Humans of New York: The Series, uses video interviews to tell its wide-ranging stories.
And Returning the Favor is a feel-good show that would be right at home on the Discovery Channel or a similar US cable-TV channel. The 10-episode series follows Mike Rowe, from the TV show Dirty Jobs, as he travels the country to find people who have changed their communities.
Facebook isn’t launching its Watch platform with Breaking Bad-level ambitions, like some others. It’s starting with comedies and other scripted shows that are closer to what’s already on Facebook—low brow videos with broad appeal or passionate niche communities.
Loosely Exactly Nicole, a former MTV series that starring comedian Nicole Byer that was cancelled after one season due to poor TV ratings, is one such show. The second season is now airing on Facebook.
Refinery29 also has a new scripted series called Strangers, about a cash-strapped millennial who rents out her spare bedroom. The first few episodes were screened at the Sundance Film Festival this year.
More millennial-minded scripted shows may also be on the way. Facebook hired former MTV executive Mina Lefevre earlier this year to head up its scripted original-video push.
Facebook has been vying for the digital rights to live sports, one of the few “appointment” programs left on TV, alongside other digital players like Amazon, Twitter, and ESPN. Its weekly Friday night Major League Baseball games, which run on Facebook Live, will also be available in the Watch tab, as will coverage of sports like baseball, surfing, and soccer.
Facebook Watch is loaded with the kinds of short-form video that’s already found on Facebook and platforms like YouTube, too. It features minutes-long video series from partners like Refinery29, Vox, and the Dodo. Tastemade premiered a cooking series called Struggle Meals with recipes that can be made for $2 a serving. Insider has a travel-food series called The Great Cheese Hunt that explores world’s best fromage. And tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki has a motivational series called Wise Guy, to name a few.
The main difference between the Facebook Watch series and those in your news feed is that Facebook’s Watch videos are made to be listened to as well as watched, whereas videos in the news feed are often viewed without sound by users scrolling through the platform, explained Quartz’s own Solana Pyne, our executive producer in charge of video.
One of Quartz’s series, Machines with Brains, centers on artificial intelligence that takes on tasks once seemed exclusively human. And another, Because Science, explores the forces shaping our universe with animation and shot footage. Both shows include some content that has been featured elsewhere on Quartz, but were packaged especially for Facebook Watch.
Still to come
There are plenty of video series still to come on Facebook Watch, including Last State Standing, a competition show from the makers of American Ninja Warrior that features contestants from the 50 US states.