Facebook's big push into TV shows is an attack on YouTube, not Netflix

Susan Wojcicki and Mark Zuckerberg


YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are now direct rivals, thanks to Facebook's new Watch service.

  • Facebook's foray into original shows, dubbed Watch, is a direct shot at YouTube, and less of a play to compete with more premium services like Netflix and HBO.
  • The first round of shows Facebook plans to debut in Watch include daily series from internet celebrities, many of whom have already built large followings on YouTube.
  • Facebook could still compete more directly with Netflix and HBO when it debuts its more expensive, longer shows in the coming months.

When Netflix CEO and Facebook board member Reed Hastings was recently asked if the two companies were competing, he said there wasn't a conflict because "we are not bidding on the same shows."

Now we know what he meant.

Facebook's recently announced push into shows is a direct attack on YouTube, not Netflix.

The company's new video tab, Watch, will showcase a slew of original shows from a wide range of partners, including digital content studios like ATTN and more conventional TV channels like National Geographic.

But what separates Watch from Netflix or HBO and makes it a direct YouTube competitor is Facebook's plan to feature videos created by individuals, not just entertainment and media companies.

"We hope Watch will be home to a wide range of shows - from reality to comedy to live sports," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post announcing the initiative. "Some will be made by professional creators, and others from regular people in our community."

For example, one of the first shows to debut on Watch is called "Nas Daily," a daily show featuring a former YouTube star who tellingly ditched the platform a year ago and has since been posting his videos on Facebook instead.

Facebook has been aggressively courting other homegrown YouTube stars in recent months. To help with that effort, it's working on a standalone app for video creators that would allow them to interact with fans and get analytical data on the content they share. Another inducement: Watch partners will be able to keep 55% of the revenue from mid-roll ads that run in their videos, a Facebook representative told Business Insider on Thursday.

If Facebook can convince more internet celebrities to ditch their large followings on YouTube, Watch could deal a severe blow to YouTube's Red subscription, which features similar types of shows.

No "House of Cards" yet

08 TV_Shows


Some of the shows that will be featured on Facebook's Watch service.

For now, Watch looks more like YouTube than Netflix. Facebook appears to be kicking off Watch with lower-tier, less expensive shows.

But Watch could soon take more direct aim at Netflix. Facebook has shown that it's willing to spend millions of dollars for exclusive rights to the kinds of series you would see on traditional TV.

Multiple people familiar with the matter mentioned Netflix's own "House of Cards" as a representation of the caliber of shows that have been pitched to Facebook. Another person familiar with the matter cited "Scandal" as an example.

Shows on Watch will debut in waves. A handful of them will be available starting on Thursday to the small percentage of Facebook users with access to the new tab. Facebook plans to make Watch available to everyone across its desktop website, mobile app, and TV app in the coming weeks.

  • Tastemade's "Kitchen Little" will feature "kids who watch a how-to video of a recipe, then instruct professional chefs on how to make it."
  • Condé Nast Entertainment will debut a five-episode "Virtually Dating" series later this month. "In this innovative and fun dating show, two people are set up on a blind date that takes place entirely in a virtual reality world."
  • Major League Baseball will stream one game live every Friday.
  • ATTN's "Health Hacks" starring Jessica Alba "will focus on several healthy living issues, ranging from diet to drinking habits."
  • A&E's "Bae or Bail" dating show will put "unsuspecting" couples "to the test as they're thrown into terrifying scenarios."
  • Cheddar, a business and financial news network that targets Millennials, will stream its daily broadcasts live in Watch.
  • Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" fame will host a show that highlights "people doing something extraordinary for their communities." Viewers will be able to use Facebook to nominate people to be featured on the show.
  • Business Insider will stream "The Great Cheese Hunt," a five-episode series about a "global quest to find the most delicious cheese dishes the world has to offer."
  • National Geographic's "We're Wired That Way" will be about "all the things that make us us: how your canine teeth tell the story of walking upright, why being in love makes you feel the way it does, why you instantly recognize a stranger you met six months ago."