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Facebook partnering for new service

Site to reveal how it's about to go Hollywood

Facebook may be just days away from revealing how it’s about to go Hollywood.

Multiple published reports in recent days say the company will announce on Thursday, at its San Francisco developers conference (known as f8), unspecified partnerships that will firmly plant the social-networking behemoth in the entertainment space.

While much is known about the music element of Facebook’s plan, said to involve such services as Spotify and Rhapsody, there’s been less disclosure on what, if any, involvement players in the film, TV and even newspaper businesses have in store.

Facebook will allow its users to opt in to a real-time stream in which any content consumption its users engage in via participating services will be shared with “friends” via a real-time “ticker” that will be separate from the Facebook news feed.

Facebook’s “Like” feature will likely be at the center of the new ticker, which would presumably enable sharing and viewing of whatever content is referenced, though it’s unclear how those transactions would transpire.

Such a move would not come as a big surprise to Facebook watchers given that execs from founder Mark Zuckerberg on down have talked quite a bit over the past year about making media a more social experience. It’s that at the f8 conference the company will make good on that promise with a theme Facebook will call “Read. Watch. Listen.”

Facebook has already shown in the social-gaming space how deeply it can embed itself as ground zero for popular games like Farmville. That effect has made a huge growth story out of gamemaker Zynga, which does little business outside of Facebook.

But which companies will become the entertainment equivalent of Zynga would be anybody’s guess — as is whether watching movies and TV shows on Facebook is as natural an extension of social networking as casual gaming has proven to be.

The New York Post reported that Hulu will have a place at Facebook’s table. Netflix could also be part of the announcement; CEO Reed Hastings has spoke on recent earnings calls about a coming integration with Facebook, though in August he noted that those plans have been delayed by legal issues.

However, it is entirely possible that Facebook can leapfrog over existing aggregators like Netflix or Hulu and make individual deals with studios to get at the kind of content it would otherwise have to obtain through one of those third parties.

There’s been a trickle of modest partnerships struck between Facebook and at least four studios to enable movie rentals. Warner Bros. was the first back in March, putting a selection of recent releases ranging from “The Dark Knight” to “Yogi Bear” for the equivalent of $3 via Facebook credits. Universal Pictures and Paramount Studios followed suit over the summer with catalog-centric offerings on Facebook supporting “The Big Lebowski” and the “Jackass” franchise, respectively.

Last month, Miramax launched what was probably the most ambitious Facebook footprint to date, with 20 different titles. The “Miramax eXperience” represented the first studio-centric offering as opposed to individual Facebook pages for specific titles, and the films can also be viewed on iPad and Google TV.

The TV business has been far less aggressive about turning Facebook into a transactional touchpoint. The only known such venture came last month when BBC Worldwide began making 10 episodes of “Doctor Who” available for rental.

It’s unclear whether these experiments amount to a prelude to what Facebook is ready to introduce at f8.

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