Facebook Is A Media Company
You’d think, as the world’s largest distraction device, Facebook would’ve made an original content play ages ago. But no. Somehow they let the world’s largest hardware store beat them to the punch.
For awhile, Zuckerberg remained firm in his conviction that Facebook was not going to be a media company. That is, until he didn’t. Soon you might be binging shows and streaming music on Facebook, right next to your hundred-comment argument with Aunt Charlene.
On the hardware end, Facebook has developed free casting apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Samsung to match its already-existing Chromecast functionality. At first, the cast-able stuff will be limited to personal videos saved on your profile and those of your friends. This makes total sense: why not make it easier to display content outside the smartphone screen?
But then, in December, the announcement came. Facebook would become what Zuckerberg always said it wasn’t, funding “some seed video content, including original and licensed scripted, unscripted and sports content,” according to recent hire and CollegeHumor co-founder Ricky Van Veen. Then just last week, Facebook also brought on former MTV EVP Mina Lefevre as head of development.
Why Facebook suddenly wants OC is both obvious and mysterious. On the one hand, it’s a way to cut in on brands’ advertising budgets currently set aside for YouTube, a battle which may be heating up as YouTube just announced that they’re discontinuing their annoying 30 second pre-rolls. It’s also a way to beat Snapchat to the punch before Sir Spiegel has billions of IPO dollars to screw around with, some of which will almost certainly go to OC. However, at the same time, Facebook is coming off its best quarter ever (in revenue, profit, and profit margin). It looks like they’ve finally figured out, once and for all, how to stay profitable. Is now really the time to start taking risks on making art?
It doesn’t stop at TV either. Facebook is making similar moves in the music space—it brought in YouTube’s Tamara Hvirnak to lead global music strategy just last month. This move has been reported as another attempt to grab ad budgets currently going to YouTube. Meaning Facebook probably won’t develop an Apple Music-style paid music service, but a free one, a potentiality which already has copyright lawyers shivering in their boots.
It’s an interesting time for OC. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft all began as products, but have metastasized into ecosystems. Each ecosystem wants us to spend more of our attention (and thus time and money) in its closed little world. Facebook, without the more practical underpinnings of a hardware product, operating system, or search engine, is often considered the weakest ecosystem of the bunch, the most likely to fail, which may explain their prior reluctance to take risks on OC.
However, Facebook dominates our consciousnesses more than any other ecosystem by far. It’s less of a tool than the others, more of a gaming system. A digital world which we plug into at will (and sometimes not so at will). Adding original content to its hypnotic repertoire thus makes even more sense for Facebook than it does for Amazon or Apple.
However, if he wants us to binge content right next to our newsfeeds, Zuckerberg could force us to answer an annoying question we’ve avoided for half a decade: How much Facebook is too much?