As if being the world’s largest online social media network is not enough, Facebook now seems to have set its sights on being the world’s largest television network.
Facebook has launched something called “Watch”, a new TV or video content production platform.
In a company blog, Facebook’s Daniel Danker, director of product says Watch will be available on mobile, on desktop and laptop, and in its TV apps. And it it will feature actual shows.
Danker says: “Shows are made up of episodes – live or recorded – and follow a theme or storyline,” says Facebook. “To help you keep up with the shows you follow, Watch has a Watchlist so you never miss out on the latest episodes.”
Sounds like a tentative first step towards building a television network. But that’s a whole different ball game than creating a social media platform which just enables people to share media – it almost certainly requires the consistent production of original material that won’t fall foul of broadcasting laws and standards.
In the past, the word “network TV” usually meant television channels which use the telecommunications infrastructure of a country, or more specifically the television infrastructure.
Now, however, TV infrastructure is just one part of the overall telecommunications infrastructure, and many companies are developing TV networks based on nothing but the internet.
Netflix, Amazon, and recently YouTube, have all developed networks which enable them to deliver video content to an increasing number of viewers.
That number has grown to a point where obscure YouTube stars have channels that attract more viewers than any of the traditional “network” programs – be it news or entertainment programs.
This is probably what is motivating the US Federal Communications Commission to prepare to end net neutrality.
Net neutrality meant that all companies were treated fairly on the internet, and no single company could pay extra or use any other means to get to the end user first or on exclusive terms.
Now, however, with the end of net neutrality, it’s possible that the big infrastructure companies – AT&T and Verizon to name but two – will likely be able to push other companies off their networks, metaphoricallly speaking.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
On the one side, we have the “incumbents of the network”, if they can be called that – many of which own their own TV and other video, radio and other media channels.
On the other side, we have let’s call them the “over-the-top tech giants”, like YouTube, Facebook and so on.
So far, the OTT side seem to have been winning, even though they produce little or no original media – it’s only recently that YouTube and now Facebook have announced their plans to produce original programming, or at least pay for original programming.
So far, to be fair to the traditional network incumbents, it’s their work which has been widely plagiarised, recorded and uploaded to a variety of social media channels.
That may all stop soon. Maybe the old networks won’t even allow the online tradition of sharing, as in enabling a webmaster to copy-paste a snippet of HTML code and show the video to their visitors.
Recently, one editor went to the CBS website, and saw an edition of 60 Minutes which he thought would appeal to his website’s readers.
He clicked on the “share” button, copied the HTML and embedded the video on his website.
But within days, a message appeared where there should have been the legendary news programme. And it said that to view the programme, you have to subscribe to the CBS website.
Increasing strictness, less sharing and an intensification of competition is all about to happen, probably.
Some might say it will help clean up the mess made by social media, with the millions of let’s say “obscure” videos and other media.
Now, the original producers of the videos and media are likely to clamp down on anyone using their material in any way, and net neutrality will help reinforce their dominance.
It’s often said that “content is king”, and YouTube and Facebook may be about to find out what that means.
If all copyright is claimed and enforced on every platform and distribution channel, it would leave social media networks and even news aggregators with little or nothing to show their vast audiences.
Which, in turn, will have serious implications for their advertising revenues – the single largest source of income for many online companies.