Facebook sets out to fund publisher-led content with talent

Red Table Talk

Facebook is extending its relationships with digital publishers such as Tastemade and LadBible, funding creator and talent-led content for video platform Watch.

Matthew Henick, global head of content planning and strategy for the social media giant, says the new initiative, in which Facebook is commissioning digital publishers, is a turn of the dial from its former relationships with digital publishers in which “no direct money changed hands”.

“This is a particular programme where we are funding their content to get it on our platform, so there is some notion of exclusivity within a certain time period,” he says.

The social media giant – which has a team on the ground at this week’s MIPCOM market – launched the strategy in the US this spring, and is now expanding into Europe, starting with the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

UK partners for the new drive include Tastemade, LADbible and football platform COPA90, while German partners are Brainpool and Burda. Other partners include Brut (France), Ciapeople (Italy) and 2btube (Spain).

Tastemade’s partners include singer Conor Maynard, who fronts cooking-dating format Date Fails – a weekly series with episodes ranging from four to six minutes – and actress Jahannah James, who fronts cooking-fitness format The Healthful Life.

Meanwhile, LADbible – which has an extensive relationship with Facebook in an ad-supported capacity – will present Beasted! featuring one of the world’s strongest men, Eddie Hall.

“Editorially, [publishers] have control to do what they want within some guidelines we have around length. But for the most part we want to give them the best practices of what length works on the platform for distribution and monetisation. For creative, they have full control,” explains Henick.

Content is exclusive to Facebook for a period of time that will vary depending on the deal, after which IP reverts back to the publishers.

How is Facebook Watch doing? 

Overall, Henick was bullish about the growth of Facebook Watch, which he said “is working so far” with more than 720m users watching content on the platform every month, and 140m users on Watch for at least a minute every day, spending an average of at least 26 minutes.

Henick added that monetisation service, AdBreaks, was now in 40 countries.

A large portion of the original content on the platform has been experimental. While shows such as Confetti struggled to find an expansive fanbase and were cancelled, as revealed by TBI, other formats such as Red Table Talk have thrived on Facebook Watch and could be localised in other countries.

Henick tells TBI that “the world deserves to see more Red Table Talk” and it is understood UK and LatAm versions are in the works, as previously reported.

“With each original, we really learned some valuable lessons we want to pass on to our partners and drive awareness of what Watch is and what it can be at its peak,” he said.

“We really learned a lot, but what we really wanted to do worldwide was make sure partners could maximise IP they already own and IP that they’ve built their businesses around on a variety of different platforms. We want to make sure we do that for diverse set of partners across entertainment, sports and news.”

Henick tells TBI that while the business won’t engage in major bidding wars with SVODs over rights to legacy shows such as Friends or Seinfeld – “We’re playing a slightly different game,” he notes – it will be strategic in pursuing catalogue shows to drive users to Watch.

“We’ve done some experimentation in the US for things like the Joss Whedon catalogue, so we have Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly episodes that are free, ad-supported and able to be watched singularly and through products like Watch party,” he says.

“When it makes sense to tap an existing audience like that, we’ll definitely look at it. Firefly is a cult classic and [you can watch it on Facebook] with other fans and possibly have a member of a writing crew or cast pop in. You could only have that with Watch.”

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