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Facebook Aims to Carve Out a Spot in the Living Room

By Peter Suciu
Feb 2, 2017 10:00 AM PT

Facebook is working on a video app for set-top boxes, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The social network wants to deliver longer-form video content -- and with it video ads -- to the living room TV, the one screen it has been unable to reach.

Facebook Aims to Carve Out a Spot in the Living Room

The Facebook app soon could be available on a variety of set-top boxes, including Apple TV, according to the WSJ report. The initiative reportedly began in earnest last summer, after incubating for years as a concept.

News of this effort follows Facebook's recent announcement that it was refining its News Feed to favor longer-form videos, which can include mid-roll ad breaks.

Facebook Live Concerns

Facebook video has been in the news in recent months, albeit not in a positive way.

Facebook Live, the network's real-time video streaming option, last summer broadcast the aftermath of a police shooting St. Paul, Minnesota.

A Facebook Live stream that aired late last year broadcast in real time the kidnapping and beating of a mentally challenged man in Chicago.

The social network might be challenged to keep the unwanted broadcast of tragedies and controversial content out of the living room with its upcoming video app offering.

"Video has been part of the broader strategy for Facebook," commented Greg Ireland, research director for consumer digital transformation and multiscreen video at IDC.

"Facebook Live has been in the news, but usually on the bad side -- but it highlighted another facet of consumer fascination and engagement with social media," he told TechNewsWorld.

"Short video has come and gone as we've seen with Vine and Facebook's own Instagram," said Ireland. "These longer form videos is where Facebook can expand its reach in video."

User-Generated Content

As with Facebook Live, the video content that could be streamed via its video app likely would be user-generated at first -- the type of content that already has a massive online following.

"The path is like the one YouTube created," said Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insights at the Local Search Association.

"It would give Facebook another revenue channel, and would position them as a YouTube competitor," he told TechNewsWorld.

"Obviously, for Facebook a move to video and video advertising is a provocative move, but it could start with longer-form user generated content and move to original commercial quality content over time," Sterling added.

"It won't displace YouTube, however, and people wouldn't switch to Facebook's video, as YouTube is too established," he added, "but Facebook could live side-by-side offering a similar

Big Play to the Big Screen

The Facebook video app could help it reach an audience that differs from YouTube, however, by being available more readily on the living room TV set. It could fill a niche that is there for the taking.

Facebook "sees that people want to consume Facebook videos on these other devices, and today the only way to do it is via AirPlay/Chromecast type mechanisms," explained Joel Espelien, senior analyst at The Diffusion Group.

However, this wouldn't be for "doing 'normal' Facebook postings on TVs -- it's just for content consumption," he told TechNewsWorld.

Over the Top Social Media

One misconception of over-the-top consumption has been that it primarily involves mobile devices.

"It isn't wise to have a strategy that doesn't include big screens," explained IDC's Ireland. "Commercially produced video content is enjoyed on the bigger screens." .

The question is whether the market can support yet another player. Netflix has fended off other competitors, but Facebook could present more of a challenge.

What this means for Apple TV also is uncertain, as Apple reportedly is entering the content development space.

"Apple TV doesn't have Amazon Prime Video on it, but it does have Hulu and Netflix, so it doesn't see everything as a competitive threat," noted Ireland.

"More entrants means there are a lot more options, and this gives choice for consumers," he pointed out, "but the consumer wallet size is not infinite. That means there will be market leaders and also-rans."


Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.


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