• Facebook is Reportedly Willing to Spend Up to $3 Million Per Episode on Originals

    The latest episode of the intensely watched drama, “What Will Facebook Do With Original Video?” arrived yesterday via a Wall Street Journal report. According to the report, Facebook is meeting with talent agencies, telling them it is willing to spend up to $3 million per episode of original scripted shows, which would be about on par with high-quality cable TV originals.

    Facebook is also open to scripted shows under $1 million per episode, and also has an appetite for unscripted content running less than 10 minutes per episode.

    No surprise, Facebook is targeting audiences age 13-34 years-old, with a focus on 17-30 year-olds. But in a twist, Facebook reportedly only wants shows that don’t include politics, news, nudity or bad language. These parameters significantly limit the range of what Facebook could pursue. This type of a Hallmark Channel’ish approach could also misfire with younger audiences who enjoy more authentic-feeling shows (think “Girls” for example).

    While the WSJ says that Facebook wants to launch its first shows by end of summer, the company’s target has always felt soft.

    However, in comparison with, for example, Apple’s opaque approach to video, Facebook’s seems downright straightforward. Spend a bunch of money to make some buzzy shows, use its advanced algorithms to promote them aggressively to users likely to enjoy them, monetize them with mid rolls (and yes, eventually pre-rolls), use them to introduce the company’s new Video tab and connected TV apps, and voila, create a whole new Facebook use case and revenue stream.

    Of course, as I wrote a few months ago, nothing about the above plan is simple or automatic. The reality is that Facebook is plowing into brand new territory that is already super-crowded with over 450 original shows now being made. First and foremost, the company must get its users to evolve their product behavior, to see Facebook as more than a scrolling feed, and instead a destination for longer-form video with Video tab.

    But that’s not all; Facebook also needs to earn the trust of premium quality content creators (just as Netflix and Amazon did before it), create a viable business model for video, and gain advertisers’ interest. It’s a tall mountain, but if any company can do it, it would be Facebook, which has executed prior pivots extremely well.