Facebook is Pushing For A Streaming TV Revolution
In the age of Peak TV, the marketplace has made room for yet another platform for original programming: Facebook.
Since August 2017, the social media behemoth has hosted game shows (“I Want My Phone Back”), cooking shows (“The Mind of a Chef”) and reality/sports programs (“No Script With Marshawn Lynch”). “Loosely Exactly Nicole” stars Nicole Byer as an aspiring actress looking for a break. MTV canceled the comedy after one season in 2016, but Facebook picked it up for a 10-episode second season.
To watch these series, Facebook users navigate to each show’s page. If a user clicks “follow,” they’ll be notified when new episodes are available.
Thanks to the nature of Facebook, fans can send instant feedback. For instance, Cyndi Wlf wrote, “Love watching this! So entertaining,” on the page for “I Want My Phone Back.” Eric Nayeli Rodriguez, a fan of “Strangers,” a drama which follows a woman discovering her bisexuality, commented, “This show just captured my heart. Patiently waiting for season 2!!!!!!”
The “Strangers” account responded: “We’re so glad this show means so much to you, Eric! Season 2 is going to be here before you know it — trust us, it’s worth the wait!” (“Strangers” was renewed for a second season in November.)
“Strangers” is one of the platform’s few original scripted shows, but that’s changing. According to the Wall Street Journal, the platform is willing to commit to scripted shows that cost as much as $3 million per episode in 2018.
Big names are embracing the new platform. One series in development is a 10-episode dramedy starring Elizabeth Olsen (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”) as a young widow. “Five Points” is a scripted drama set in a Chicago high school that’s co-produced by “Scandal’s” Kerry Washington. “Sacred Lies,” another half-hour, 10-episode drama in the pipeline, is coming from former “True Blood” executive producer Raelle Tucker. Based on a Brothers Grimm tale (“The Handless Maiden”) and a novel (“The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly” by Stephanie Oakes), it will follow a teenage girl who escapes from a cult and lands in a juvenile detention center.
While Netflix is a subscription-based service, Facebook TV is supported by ads. According to a representative from Nielsen, Facebook, like Netflix, does measure its viewership but remains tight-lipped about exact numbers.
At the January National Association of Television Programing Executives conference, Variety reports that Ricky Van Veen, Facebook’s head of global creative strategy, emphasized that Facebook values social buzz over ratings and prestige.
“We’re not going to win by competing in prestige hourlong dramas. There are many people who do that well,” he said. “What’s going to differentiate us is that show that uses the social fabric of Facebook.”
He also described the upcoming teen-oriented show “Shame,” based on the Scandinavian series “Skam,” as “built for social.”
Will these series revolutionize how audiences watch TV, the same way Facebook has revolutionized communication? Time — and internet buzz — will tell.