Binge-watching on Facebook: Yes, it could be a thing

USA TODAY - A familiar online destination — Facebook — wants to evolve into one of your future go-to options for binge-watching.

In addition to its plans for improving tools for Facebook Live creators, the social networking site is also in talks with Hollywood studios to develop and acquire original scripted TV shows, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Facebook is looking to compete with other relative newcomers to content creation such as Amazon, Apple, Hulu and Netflix on a series costing as much as $3 million per episode to make, the Journal says, citing people familiar with the situation.

Facebook is also interested in developing lower-cost shows, as well as short-term unscripted video content, which could run for 10 minutes, the Journal says. Among the companies reportedly working on short-form content for Facebook: ATTN, BuzzFeed and Refinery 29.

“Our goal is to make Facebook a place where people can come together around video. To help get there, we're supporting a small group of partners and creators as they experiment with the kinds of shows you can build a community around -- from sports to comedy to reality to gaming," said Nick Grudin, Facebook's vice president for media partnerships, in a statement sent to USA TODAY. He declined comment on possible plans with Hollywood studios.

"We're focused on episodic shows and helping all our partners understand what works across different verticals and topics," he said. "We're funding these shows directly now, but over time we want to help lots of creators make videos funded through revenue sharing products like Ad Break.”

Among topics Facebook is trying to avoid with its video programming, according to the Journal: political dramas, news, shows about children and young teens — and shows with nudity and rough language.

Facebook has a goal,  said CEO Mark Zuckerberg on a recent conference call, of "creating some anchor content initially that helps people learn that going to the video tab that that's a great destination where they can explore and come to Facebook with the intent to watch the videos that they want."

At last week's VidCon, Facebook announced new upcoming features allowing creators of Facebook Live videos to add intros and outros, resulting in a more professional-looking broadcast. And the migration of video creators to Facebook and Instagram, owned by Facebook, was evident.

As more consumers watch video on mobile and portable devices — and eschew traditional pay-TV service — an increasing number of services aim to attract video audiences. Earlier this month, Apple hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, the former co-heads of Sony Pictures Television to oversee its video programming unit. And Apple has begun airing its 10-episode seriesPlanet of the Apps hosted by Zane Lowe with celebrity advisors including Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow and will.i.am.

Earlier this year, Amazon won three Oscars for two movies it acquired — Manchester By The Sea and The Salesman — and the online retailing giant is expected to double its spending on video acquisitions and triple it on original content.

Another entrant is video game streaming service Twitch, which starts a six-day marathon of Mystery Science Theater 3000, beginning at 2 a.m. ET Tuesday/11 p.m. PT Monday. Previous Twitch marathons have featured Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Power Rangers.

For its part, Facebook hired former MTV executive Mina Lefevre in February to oversee its original content initiative, which aims to target viewers aged 17 to 30 years of age. Among the shows Lefevre is reportedly looking to bring to Facebook is Loosely Exactly Nicole, a comedy she helped develop and launch last fall on MTV but was cancelled after one season.

A revival is reportedly close to happening for the show, starring comedian Nicole Byers, The Hollywood Reporter reported earlier this month.  Also in the works is Last State Standing, a reality show from American Ninja Warrior producers A. Smith and Co., it reported.

Facebook also has acquired Strangers, a series about millennial relationships that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, the Journal reported.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

Copyright 2017 USA TODAY


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