The digital distribution space is quickly becoming crowded, with some of the biggest tech giants deciding they want a piece of the pie. Everyone wants the next big hit original series, and Facebook may be throwing its hat into the ring, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.
Following on the heels of Apple’s recent announcement that they also plan to invest as much as $1 billion in original programming, it’s unclear whether Facebook wants to develop actual scripted series or rely on their video-creation ecosystem. The Facebook Watch feature, with hundreds of shows ranging from scripted dramas to reality-TV offerings, is oriented towards community involvement, with Facebook and the content creators splitting the proceeds.
There are also many more shows on the way. “Over time, this will be completely open,” Dan Rose, VP of partnerships, said. “The teenager in her garage will be able to participate in this.”
However, that’s a long way from big-budget original programming that gets mentioned at Emmy time, and $1 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the spending from some of the other companies currently enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim in the streaming video market. HBO, which often has the shows with the biggest buzz, spends around $2 billion yearly on original programming. Netflix spends $6 billion, and Amazon $4.5 billion. Jeff Bezos has made no secret of his desire to make Amazon the major player in the market, and has put pressure on his production company to come up with “the next Game of Thrones.”
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It’s also not specified whether the $1 billion figure includes sports programming, another nascent enterprise for the digital distribution services. Twitter paid $10 million for Thursday Night Football broadcasts in 2016, but Amazon outbid them for the 2017 season in a deal reportedly worth $50 billion. Facebook recently began broadcasting MLB games, with a live streaming game available every week.
Expensive original programming is hardly a sure thing. Hulu hit it big with The Handmaid’s Tale, a critically acclaimed series that vaulted them it contention with Netflix and HBO in the streaming video market. On the other hand, Amazon’s costly and heavily promoted Z: The beginning of Everything flopped and was canceled after one season.
The Journal report is anonymously sourced and scarce on details, so it remains to be seen whether this marks a new venture for Facebook or an expansion of their current bubbling cauldron of user-created content. Still, it’s an indication of how much the television landscape has changed in just a few years, with major tech companies making inroads into an industry previously dominated by cable networks and broadcast companies.
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