Facebook this week announced Watch, a new tab dedicated to watching (oh, my, how clever) shows on the social network. This isn’t the first time the company has attempted to take on traditional television, Netflix, and YouTube. But this time, I’m genuinely excited about the potential.
So, what’s different with Facebook’s latest push? I don’t care that Watchlist is basically a copy of YouTube’s subscription feature or that its various categories replicates Netflix’s sections of what to watch. I expected these — we’ve seen Facebook do video before, and the company knows how to push the envelope when it comes to video features.
The real game-changer will be the type of content we’re told to expect. Facebook has mentioned reality shows, comedy skits, motivational talks, documentaries, and live sports.
I don’t care for reality TV, but I’m sure it will be popular. The next three we’ve already seen on Facebook, and they’ve all seen relative success. Watch will leverage videos already on the social network to push new content created by partners. But the last item in the list is the most exciting.
— Emil Protalinski (@EPro) July 27, 2017
Facebook emphasized that shows on Watch can be either “live or recorded.” Sports stands out as a content type because it is always broadcast live first.
I don’t watch that much sports, but when I do, I very much enjoy the social aspect. I genuinely look forward to meeting up with my friends to watch the game, or the match, or the fight.
But sometimes, you can’t meet up. If you watch sports, I’m sure you’ve experienced this: Watching the game “alone” wherein it’s you, your phone, and Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp or some other messaging app you’re using to chat about the game.
Now imagine you weren’t just chatting about the game in Facebook, but watching it too.
I argued earlier this week that YouTube completely missed this opportunity with its messaging feature launch. You should let friends watch videos together at the same time, not just chat about them after the fact.
This is particularly true for livestreamed content, like sports.
But it can apply to various other scenarios. Couples in long-distance relationships could use it to watch TV together. Family members could schedule regular TV sessions when they’re no longer living in the same household. But live content is the best example, so let’s get back to that. Any time you talk about the evolution of sports, esports isn’t far behind.
With a little work, Facebook’s Watch could be adopted by the gaming community. If YouTube can challenge Amazon’s Twitch, why can’t Facebook? Everything described about watching the game/match/fight could apply to video games.
The social aspect of Watch is what has me most intrigued. I would love to watch Game of Thrones with my girlfriend when we’re not together, as well as watch sports and esports with my friends when we can’t meet up. Such a future is surely far away, but it just got a little bit closer.
Netflix and YouTube brought TV into the internet era. Now Facebook has the opportunity to make TV social again.
Don’t screw this up, Facebook — I’m watching Watch closely.