has taken a major step in its push to become “video-first.”
The company unveiled a prominent new “Watch” tab on its flagship app on Wednesday that gives the social network’s 2 billion monthly users a place to discover short-form shows and videos their friends like. The tab also lets users follow creators and chat with friends while they consume content. The hub will be home to everything from live sports to comedy and dramas and will feature content made by publishers and professional creators, as well as regular Facebook users. Some of the initial content partners include National Geographic, Major League Baseball and A&E. The tab will start rolling out to a limited number of users in the U.S. this week and should roll out more broadly over time.
“We believe it’s possible to rethink a lot of experiences through the lens of building community — including watching video,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on the social network on Wednesday. “Watching a show doesn’t have to be passive. It can be a chance to share an experience and bring people together who care about the same things.”
Facebook’s scale, coupled with its focus on making video consumption a social experience that’s integrated with users’ news feeds and “Groups,” could enable the company to lure a sizable audience away from video giant . YouTube, which has 1 billion monthly users, still has a larger, more established network of video influencers and vloggers, who sometime garner millions of fans. However, the appeal of Facebook’s unparalleled user base could sway influencers and creators to migrate to the social network, provided Facebook offers the right tools. If Facebook can offer users original content they can’t find on YouTube or anywhere else, the tab could build a loyal, consistent following.
“The threat Facebook poses is to YouTube,” said Krishna Subramanian, cofounder and CEO of social media analytics firm Captiv8. “It’s the sheer audience you have on Facebook. People are coming on a daily basis to connect with friends and family and celebrities they look up to. Watch gives the potential for users to sit for a much longer period of time.”
Facebook plans to monetize the tab by splitting revenue with publishers from ads placed in the videos or from sponsoring videos with advertisers from the outset. The tab should offer the company additional inventory for running lucrative mobile video advertisements at a time when Facebook is eager to find space outside of News Feed to run ads.
Other major tech companies have also been making moves to expand their video offerings. features original episodic videos on its smartphone app, and has been working on a competitor to Snap’s “Discover” content tab. Some of the shows that will be featured on Watch include a health program hosted by celebrity Jessica Alba, produced by ATTN, and a relationship advice show with Nev Schulman.
“If people can only find content on Facebook, they’ll keep coming,” Subramanian said.