Facebook Plans to Buy Content Outright, Strikes Sports Deal

Facebook, which launched its video tab Watch three months ago, is mulling over changing how it works with the media companies that bring new shows. Sources say that Facebook will switch to buying projects outright — dubbed “hero” shows — rather than partially funding their production. The goal is to provide more funding for the shows crucial to Watch’s success. Among the so-called hero shows are teen drama “Five Points” produced by Kerry Washington, Simon Fuller’s “Skam” and some short-form and mid-form series. And in a new deal, Facebook also plans to stream more live college sports.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that, “shows that Facebook already has renewed for second seasons include comedy ‘Strangers’, docuseries ‘Ball in the Family’ and Mike Rowe’s unscripted ‘Returning the Favor’.”

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Prior to launching Watch in August in the U.S., Facebook inked numerous deals for short-form and mid-form video series; “partners were also given the option of publishing videos into the Watch ecosystem independent of Facebook funding.” For most of them, “Facebook offered a cut of the advertising revenue made off the shows.”

The switch to a fully funded model is not a surprise to media executives, who describe it “as helping seed Watch with content and learn about what was appealing to audiences.” Indeed, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, in a call with investors, emphasized his company’s investment in Watch and added, “We’re going to try a bunch of things.”

Variety reports that Facebook, having struck a deal with sports media company Stadium, “will be the exclusive home to 47 college basketball games for the 2017-18 season, which it will stream for free.” The games, from conferences that include Mountain West, West Coast Conference, Conference USA, and the Atlantic 10, will be available on Facebook’s Watch.

On-air talent “will address fan comments and questions throughout the live games, among other coordinated production assets and social elements.” This deal follows another, in which Facebook will “exclusively live-stream 15 college football games this season, similarly from smaller schools.”