Facebook recently announced the roll-out of a new tab to US-based users. The Watch tab shows original video content--both recorded and live. A Discover option lets users find new shows to watch, while a Watchlist makes sure that they can always see the latest episodes of a show that they follow.
It sounds like a small move. Facebook has long hosted video, and that video has long been vital for publishers. Making those videos easier to find shouldn't be a big deal.
It is a big deal. It's a huge deal--and not just because the inclusion of a live Major League Baseball Game a week (alongside videos from Nas Daily and National Geographic) shows that Facebook is serious about bringing in quality, original content. Facebook is not going to replace traditional television. That's an industry that has enough competition from Netflix and Hulu.
But it is a great move for users. They now have one place where they can go to watch their favorite videos instead of hoping that something good pops up in their stream. They have more control over what they watch and when they watch it. Sections in the Watch tab called "Most Talked About" and "What's Making People Laugh" guide viewers to videos that are producing the most comments and the most laughing emojis (and give publishers who produce good videos a massive boost). A live comment stream, like the one on live videos, turns watching into a community experience.
More important though, will be the section marked "What Friends Are Watching." That section provides a place for people to join their friends' conversations and find videos enjoyed by people who share their tastes. Users are going to be watching more videos, and they'll be watching more videos that they'll enjoy.
For publishers, it's even better. First, Facebook is offering a generous rev-share. Publishers receive 55 percent of advertising revenue. Video on Facebook has always been the best way to win engagement and audiences but monetizing those views has always been difficult. Facebook has finally provided one way to turn a popular video into a direct revenue stream.
The section showing the videos that friends are watching will also spread videos more quickly. Users currently only see a video a friend enjoyed if that friend interacted with it. Now publishers have a way to show it to their audiences' friends even if those audiences members only watched it. That should result in many more views.
But the real benefit for publishers is what happens next. Facebook's Instant Articles hasn't taken off but publishers were always worried about placing their content on someone else's platform, and Facebook was always keener on video. If the Watch tab lives up to its promise, publishers will have a real rival to YouTube as a publishing platform. More importantly, that platform will have a built-in community, a potentially huge audience already in place, massive rewards for winning laughs or comments, and a clear revenue stream.
Publishers have long known that they should be making video content. Now they have a way to give those videos a large audience... and a big income.