In the year to come Facebook is set to spend as much as $1 billion dollars on original video content and thus formally enter the video streaming wars. A landscape that is currently populated by two major players: Netflix and Amazon, and a few minor burgeoning entities: Hulu, Apple and Disney.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how similar this looks to Games of Thrones’ War of the Five Kings plot. They all seem to be vying for the top spot in streaming and while cable television isn’t dead (a la Robert Baratheon) its downward trajectory nevertheless precipitated this new landscape.
However, that’s probably where the similarities end.
Facebook’s strategy with investing in episodic series is apparently to jump-start the video-creator ecosystem on the platform. Its stated long-term ambition is to let thousands of shows bloom without its involvement — operating like YouTube, open to anyone and sharing advertising revenue with content creators and publishers.
Moreover, if we look at Watch, Facebook’s current video aggregation guide, programming skews more toward viral-friendly short-form content and reality shows rather than big-ticket dramas. By comparison Netflix and Amazon started out with critically acclaimed programming tailor made for the new binge watching era: House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle respectively. Facebook’s direction could change in this regard keeping in mind that recent successes like 13 Reasons Why and Narcos were hits virally, something Facebook would want to keep in house.
Also, 1 billion, while not insignificant, is still well below the 6 and 4.5 billion that Netflix and Amazon spend on original content.
It was really only a matter of time before competitive moves like these would proliferate. The internet makes it easier and cheaper for content providers to distribute video, and for successful digital distributors to invest in original content. How Facebook fares in this regard is anyone’s guess.
So what does this mean for fandom?
While I don’t think the major players will suffer the same fates as the five kings in Game of Thrones, the streaming space will most definitely get bloodier in the coming years. Strategic focus will be key, however, with 2 billion monthly users Facebook can afford to reach out to niche markets. This, coupled with nerd-dom moving into the mainstream could mean even better quality content and innovation than what is currently offered.