Facebook plans to be more like YouTube than Netflix as it pays for video

“We’re focusing more on shorter form content to start” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on today’s Q4 earnings call, where he was repeatedly questioned about Facebook’s video strategy. One thing’s clear, Facebook will invest heavily. “I see video as a mega trend,” said Zuckerberg.

Facebook will both pay video makers up front and through ad revenue sharing to get their content into its News Feed and video tab. Despite reports that it’s been in talks with TV studios and is building a set-top TV box, Facebook isn’t going to immediately dive into funding a ton of TV shows and movies. Zuckerberg noted, “Over the longer term…people will experiment with longer forms of video as well as all kinds of different things.” But quick, snackable clips are “the primary focus for the foreseeable future.”

Essentially, Facebook is more interested in the YouTube model of collecting tons of quick video clips than investing in long-form shows or films like Netflix.

Facebook’s CFO David Wehner said “our focus was on kickstarting the ecosystem here for the video tab…We’re looking at a wide range of content.” To do that, it plans to pay up-front for “seed content,” which will start to draw more viewers to its video offering and make it an established home for premium clips. This is similar to what it did to spark initial interest in Facebook Live. “We’re certainly going to be seeding content to get the ecosystem going. That’s not about doing big deals,” said Wehner.

Eventually, though, it plans to get enough viewers that an advertising revenue share with creators will be enough to keep them contributing their videos. “We need to be able to support that with a business model that we’re working on with ads,” said Wehner.

Facebook Video Search

Zuckerberg believes that the new video tab, now rolled out to everyone in the U.S., will change video viewing behavior on Facebook. Right now, people stumble upon videos in their News Feed, which they often check during short down-times in their daily lives. “Say I want to watch video content now,”┬áZuckerberg says. “That’s what I think we’re going to unlock with this tab. The early trends are good.”

That dedicated visitorship combined with a healthy, long-term business model could attract “the best episodic content,” says Zuckerberg. That means expanding its inclusion of mid-roll ads with a design that doesn’t scare off viewers. Those episodes could include half-hour TV shows but Zuckerberg was likely referring to the kind of weekly video shows often seen on YouTube. He sees the video tab as a convenient way to follow your favorite video stars and catch up on their latest clips.

Facebook’s CEO called video a “megatrend” with good reason. As bigger screens, faster connections, better mobile cameras and short-form video content techniques proliferate, it’s become much more pleasant to watch while on the go. While even browsing photos can require some mental and thumb effort, videos offer people an immersive, lean-back escape from their lives.

Facebook and Instagram consumed much of that need to detach from the present in the pre-video era, and now they’re trying to cement themselves in a world where phones are our primary televisions.