Facebook wants to battle Apple and Amazon over control of your TV apps

Facebook is pushing to become a video hub in more ways that one.
Facebook is pushing to become a video hub in more ways that one.
Image: Facebook
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Facebook wants to become the home for all of your streaming-TV apps.

The social network is in talks with TV companies such as HBO, Showtime, and Starz to begin selling their streaming-TV subscriptions through Facebook next year, Recode reported on Dec. 13. Subscribers would be able to watch the programming on Facebook as well, the publication said. Pay-TV companies already spend a lot of money advertising their services on Facebook, Recode wrote, and the company is hoping to capture some of the revenue from people who click on those ad. Subscriptions could bring another revenue stream to Facebook at a time when it expects other revenue growth to slow.

Other platforms that sell online subscriptions typically take a cut of the subscription fees. Amazon has been selling online subscriptions to pay-TV channels like HBO since 2015. It now sells more than 140 streaming-video subscriptions in the US through the program, called Prime Video Channels, including well-known services like CBS All Access and niche platforms such as BritBox, an outlet for British TV, as well as subscriptions in the UK and Germany. Apple reportedly plans to start selling video subscriptions next year, too. It already directs people to other video apps and subscriptions through its own “TV” app. Hulu—which, unlike Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, is only in the US—sells packages for HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz on its platform. And cable company Comcast—a traditional TV aggregators—sells subscriptions to Netflix and is integrating the streaming-video service, and others like Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, into its TV interface, as well.

Facebook has been pushing into video in other ways as well. In August 2017, Facebook launched Watch as a hub for original programming and TV-like video that’s longer and higher quality than much of what’s found in the newsfeed. It was an attempt to capture more of the lucrative digital video advertising business, which eMarketer estimates will be worth nearly $28 billion in the US this year. Facebook said this week that 75 million people now watch at least one minute of video on Watch each day, and watch for more than 20 minutes on average.

Facebook also introduced a feature called Watch Party over the summer, which lets groups of users watch videos together. It has bid competitively on sports like baseball, and it recently started licensing older TV shows including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly through a deal with 20th Century Fox.

Facebook did not immediately return Quartz’s request for comment.

Want a better understanding of Facebook and other streaming giants? Check out our guide to the streaming-TV wars.