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Facebook takes on TV with Watch

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 10/08/2017 Jefferson Graham
Facebook takes on TV with Watch © Facebook Facebook takes on TV with Watch

LOS ANGELES — TV is coming to Facebook Thursday. Sort of.

The social network is launching a new section called Watch, hoping to bring regularly scheduled, appointment viewing, to Facebook.

But NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox have little to fear yet.

The shows announced are ones most people haven’t heard of. They include social media influencer David Lopez showing off a day in his life, woodworker Tommy Mac's tutorials and Major League Soccer players relaying stories from the field.

The Watch platform launches to a select group of Facebook users Thursday, and then expands nationally later this year. Facebook has more than 2 billion users. 

On his Facebook feed, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg called Watch "a place where you can discover shows your friends are watching and follow your favorite shows and creators so you don't miss any episodes. You'll be able to chat and connect with people during an episode, and join groups with people who like the same shows afterwards to build community."

This is the first volley of a major push by Facebook to go beyond the News Feed with appointment viewing. It’s also bankrolled several big-budget reality and dating shows that will debut when Watch goes national.

Videos in Watch are different from watching in the News Feed, where most Facebook users find and view clips. “This is where you go when you want to catch up,” says Daniel Danker, director of product for Facebook.

Zuckerberg described the fare as a wide range of shows -- from reality to comedy to live sports. "Some will be made by professional creators, and others from regular people in our community."

Facebook has been engaged in a two-year plan to get more video views on the social network, with Live programming as its latest push.

But what started as raw, cable access like programs has turned into more polished productions by media companies like PBS, the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter.

The shows on Watch are expected to also be professionally produced. The main difference between Live and Watch, says Danker, is that Live is for events while Watch is for regularly scheduled programming.

“If it’s a show that reliably comes out every week, it will be in my watch list,” he says.

Follow USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham

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