Even Facebook Apparently Wants To Be Netflix Now

Image courtesy of Facebook

When you want to watch an original comedy or drama series, you may cue up Netflix, Amazon, or even (gasp!) broadcast or cable networks. When you want to watch a livestream of some bored news editors trying to make a watermelon explode, or a press conference, or someone’s dog being silly, you might turn to Facebook Live video. But now it seems Facebook is jumping on the bandwagon everyone else is these days, and wants a chance to get scripted series and sports in front of your face too.

Tech news site Recode is reporting today that Facebook is in talks with TV studios and other video producers to license programming for its platform. The talks reportedly include discussions for scripted shows, game shows, and sports programming — basically, TV.

Facebook does already host some original content, Recode points out, mostly through deals with digital publishers (like Recode’s own parent company, Vox Media). It’s paid millions to internet stars from other platforms, as well as to media companies like BuzzFeed, to host live video streams on the service.

Some of those livestreaming deals are comparatively high value — in the millions — but that’s not even pocket change as compared to what scripted and sports programming costs traditional providers. For example, the last season of HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones reportedly cost $10 million per episode to produce.

Facebook exec Ricky Van Veen — co-founder of CollegeHumor in 1999, and now don’t you feel old — is spearheading the mission to make Facebook the channel you watch for the programming you want. He tells Recode, “Our goal is to kickstart an ecosystem of partner content for the tab, so we’re exploring funding some seed video content, including original and licensed scripted, unscripted, and sports content, that takes advantage of mobile and the social interaction unique to Facebook.”

Why? Well, “for money” is a good guess in the long run, but for now, just for the sake of experimentation more than anything else. “Our goal is to show people what is possible on the platform and learn as we continue to work with video partners around the world,” Van Veen said.

Facebook has been pushing hard in recent years to make video a core part of its platform, which reaches about 1.7 billion (yes, with a B) unique users per month. The path, however, has not been entirely smooth.

Figuring out how to best show ads on live video has proven to be a tricky proposition, in the first place.

And then it recently turned out that for the last two years, Facebook has actually been overestimating how long people actually spend watching video on the service. A few weeks later, the company issued a second “our bad” saying that other metrics may have been artificially inflated, too.

That means advertisers and content companies were spending money on Facebook to reach an audience that they may not actually have been reaching after all. But Facebook’s entire purpose, at this point, is to be a vast storehouse of accurate, highly targetable data that allows advertisers to reach the right audience in the right way. If original content producers don’t trust the numbers, they may not find themselves in a hurry to throw their shows onto Facebook and see what happens.