Facebook on Thursday officially launched Watch, allowing Facebook users everywhere to watch episodic series directly on the platform.

The lure for video-content providers to produce shows for Facebook is at least threefold. First, with some 2 billion users, the platform offers a huge potential audience. Mike Rowe’s series Returning the Favor garnered 2.5 million views before the feature even officially premiered. Second, Facebook is offering creators 55% of any advertising revenue earned via their shows. And third, Facebook can provide producers and advertisers very specific analytics, something traditional TV is working toward but still can’t fully do.

At kick-off, viewers can watch such programs as the aforementioned Returning the Favor, starring Rowe, who’s also starred in such series as Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs and CNN’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Facebook Watch also turned the platform’s popular feature, Humans of New York, into a docu-series. It has a reality series, Ball in the Family, starring basketball super-daddy LaVar Ball and his three sons who were “born to go pro,” and a food series from Tastemade. Digital producers, such as Refinery 29 and Conde Nast, are already testing programs on the new platform.

“It’s about behavior – Facebook is helping its users create new behaviors,” Refinery29 Chief Content Officer Amy Emmerich told Variety. “For us, as a partner for Facebook, it’s good to be one of the first ones in.”

One of the advantages of airing a show on Facebook is the immediate community that can be created around it. Creating and inspiring a vibrant fan community has been key to the success of some of TV’s biggest shows — such as HBO’s Game of Thrones and NBC’s This Is Us — and those shows’ fan bases exist all over the internet from Facebook to Reddit, YouTube, Twitch, many podcasting platforms and beyond. Still, Facebook is counting on its existing chat and comment features to inspire immediate conversation and community.

To that end, each show has its own show page so fans can follow programs they really love even more closely.

Facebook paid for some of its first series to seed the service, VP of partnerships Dan Rose told Variety, but it’s clearly aiming at YouTube, where so much of the content comes from creators.

“Obviously, creating premium episodic content is expensive,” Rose told the trade. “Until we have a large enough audience – so the advertising revenue can cover the cost of creative — we helped fund some of them, so people see something when they go to Watch.”

Watch is available on Facebook — on both the desktop and in the app on smart phones and other mobile devices. It’s also available via connected smart-TV platforms Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Samsung Smart TV.

READ MORE: Variety


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