Facebook guns for OTT content providers with new video platform

James Pearce
Published on:

Facebook has announced Watch, a new content service, as it looks to take on the likes of Netflix and YouTube

Facebook has announced a new video platform, as it looks to compete with OTT content providers such as Netflix and YouTube.

The social media giant has launched “Watch”, which will offer content ranging from professional women’s basketball to special interest shows.

The content will initially be made available to select users in the US through Facebook’s mobile app, website and a television app, after months of speculation about the US firm’s ambitions in this space.

Reports in May claimed Facebook had signed a number of deals with media firms including Vox Media, Buzzfeed and others, looking to produce both scripted and unscripted content.

It is part of Facebook’s bid to channel more traffic through its own services, whilst the service will also serve as a direct competitor for Google-owned YouTube.

Facebook already offers live streaming through its Facebook Live service, while users can post and share videos on the social networks website and app, but Watch will replace this Videos tab, making it easier to discover trending content or find out what friends and acquaintances are watching.

Watch will organise the content by sections such as “most talked about”, giving creators and publishers a platform to “find an audience, build a community of passionate fans and earn money for their work”, according to director of product Daniel Danker.

Facebook has been seeking ways to be more involved in how customers use their data and now is one of the dominant messaging firms through WhatsApp, which it bought in 2014, and its own Messenger service.

It has also invested in several subsea cables, including Marea, a joint project with Microsoft and Telefónica’s Telxius running between the US and Spain; and the 250Gbps trans-Atlantic subsea cable it is working on with Nokia.

Disney quits Netflix 

Facebook isn’t the only US corporation to this month unveil its content strategy, after Disney announced plans to withdraw its content from streaming service Netflix.

The “House of Mouse” said it will launch its own branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019, despite it having a “positive relationship” with the streaming firm.

“It’s been clear to us for a while that the future of this industry will be forged by direct relationships between content creators and consumers,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told analysts. “When you have a strong fan base like Disney has, or ESPN, that creates all forms of other opportunities in terms of tapping into customer passion for the brand and connection to the customer.”

It marks an opportunity for telecoms operators to forge relationships with content providers, although much of the movement in the space thus far has come through acquisitions. For example, the proposed AT&T takeover of Time Warner will give it a huge amount of content.

Paolo Pescatore, Vice President, Multiplay and Media, CCS Insight, said:“Disney has been a relatively late player to the online video landscape. Though its arrival was expected, this is still big news. Fundamentally, the company doesn't want to cannibalise its existing core revenue streams.”

“However, not even a media giant like Disney can ignore the opportunity to distribute its wealth of franchises and content to new audiences via the Internet. Video is proving to be a battle ground for all providers as underlined by recent announcements from the likes of Amazon et al and it is apparent that the future of delivering video will be via the Internet. Furthermore, we believe that the move to internet delivery of TV programming will see a return to large bundles of content.” 

“The move squashes any rumours of Disney acquiring Netflix. But it is a huge compliment to the success Netflix has achieved within a short period of time and a strong validation of its strategy. Removing Disney content will be a setback for Netflix, but expect other content and media owners to follow Disney in removing their programming on Netflix to differentiate their own offerings. If anything this places more importance on Netflix’s own investment in original content and puts into context Netflix’s recent acquisition of comics publisher Millarworld.”