Facebook Reveals 'Watch,' Its YouTube Competitor and TV Clone

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Watch Credit: Facebook

Facebook announced Wednesday that it has invented, well, television.

The social network finally revealed the details behind a new video hub that it had been developing for months. It has been in talks with publishers and networks to deliver new shows and a revamped video section to host the programming.

The video hub is called "Watch," and will appear as a tab in the mobile app and also be featured on the desktop web. Facebook has dubbed its episodic video creations -- wait for it -- "shows." They are being created by partners like A&E Networks, Hearst, National Basketball Association, Business Insider, Mashable, National Geographic, Brit & Co. and other outlets.

Shows will be episodic and have ad breaks.

"This is a new way to watch video on Facebook," says Greg Gittrich, chief content officer at Mashable. "The videos are a different style of format than what's in the News Feed, and these show will live in Facebook Watch."

New on Facebook, perhaps, but not on TV as some observers have pointed out. Facebook has developed ad breaks in live videos and other on-demand videos from publishing partners earlier this year. Ads from brands running standard video campaigns on Facebook were also being dropped into live broadcasts and other videos from select partners.

Facebook was testing this commercial format to eventually lead to this bigger video programming push.

The social network is competing in a hot market for digital video with rivals Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and others all going after the same pool of publishers and traditional TV studios. Just last week, Snapchat announced a show with Kylie Jenner and Twitter has a 24-hour news channel coming from Bloomberg.

Facebook has never had much trouble finding media partners to post videos to the service, and try its ever-expanding lineup of content products. However, it has yet to create the magic revenue-maker that would pay for this explosion in video.

Publishers are hoping that either Facebook pays for their shows outright or they can split ad revenue with Facebook. The social network has said it would like to develop a program that is akin to YouTube where it attracts creators with a chance at taking some of the ad pie.

"Over time, creators will be able to monetize their shows through Ad Breaks," Facebook said in its announcement about the new Watch hub on Wednesday. "We've been testing Ad Breaks over the past few months, and we will be slowly opening up availability to more creators to ensure we're providing a good experience for the community."

There are still questions whether the audience likes commercial interruptions, but Facebook has always been against pre-roll video ads. Past revenue-sharing plans like "suggested videos" were a bust, so the success of this new program is far from certain.

Business Insider said it had four programs in the works already. Hearst has two shows planned. One features stars like T.J. Miller of "Silicon Valley," model Kate Upton and Danny McBride reading their Wikipedia pages.

Mashable's shows include one about telling dog owners the lineage of their mutts, and another is a do-it-yourself costume show, coming right in time for Halloween.

"Our goal is for Watch to be a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work," Facebook said.

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