Facebook’s future video strategy could involve selling its users subscriptions to pay-TV networks, such as HBO, in the hope that users will watch the content on Facebook Watch. The move would be a new type of revenue stream for Facebook, and would likely help to drive engagement with Watch, establishing Facebook as a more serious threat in the OTT video space.
Video has been an important part of Facebook’s content strategy in 2018: with the global launch of Facebook Watch last year, the social media titan confirmed to the world that it is vying for a leading place in the incredibly competitive video-on-demand market. And Facebook has made progress in video: it claims that 400 million users a month engage in watching at least one minute of video on Facebook Watch.
But Facebook’s video strategy looks set to undergo a bit of a shakeup: Facebook wants to sell its consumers subscriptions to watch paid programming from cable TV networks such as HBO, Showtime and Starz, with the hope that its subscribers will watch these networks on its own video platforms. However, customers would also be able to watch these networks and their programming on other platforms and devices, for example through Roku TV. This would certainly be a move in a new direction for Facebook, which hasn’t embraced this kind of monetisation model before (advertising has historically been the source of Facebook’s revenue).
Selling a subscription of this kind isn’t a completely original model for a video platform, and follows in a similar vein to what Amazon Prime’s Channels model. Prime Channels has been a successful venture for Amazon and has led to partnerships with high-profile brands and TV programmes, and is a strong example of a template for Facebook to follow.
Facebook’s potential partners for this venture are some of the biggest players in pay-TV. In particular, HBO is a content powerhouse that offers some of the most popular shows of the moment (including mega-hit Game of Thrones) that will have mass appeal to many of Facebook’s users. However, the biggest struggle Facebook will face is convincing subscribers why they need to purchase their pay-TV subscriptions through Facebook, rather than through conventional means.
But the move would also help to position Facebook as a more serious video competitor, should it be successful. Facebook has struggled to make as much of an impact in long-form video as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, and partnerships with recognizable brands and popular content would help to raise Facebook’s video profile and establish it as a more serious competitor in the OTT video market