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Facebook to Fund Original Video Programming From Creators, Media Companies

Facebook is embarking on a plan to bring exclusive entertainment content to its platform, saying it will fund and license original programming spanning a range of formats — including scripted and unscripted shows — from media companies and individual digital stars.

The initiative is being headed up by Ricky Van Veen, Facebook’s head of global creative strategy (pictured above), who joined the social giant earlier this year from CollegeHumor.

It’s early days: The company didn’t provide details on exactly who it’s approaching for the initiative at this point, but a rep said it is reaching out to a range of partners. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously insisted that Facebook is a technology-platform company, not a media company, but as it moves into acquiring and licensing content it’s going to be hard for Facebook to stick to that position.

Facebook’s aim is to seed content for the new video tab in its mobile app, to make it more of a destination for users to spend time watching video content. The effort is similar to its program under which it has paid celebrities and media companies, including BuzzFeed, CNN and the New York Times, to produce video for Facebook Live.

Van Veen, in a statement provided to Variety, said: “Our goal is to kick-start an ecosystem of partner content for the tab, so we’re exploring funding some seed video content, including original and licensed scripted, unscripted and sports content, that takes advantage of mobile and the social interaction unique to Facebook. Our goal is to show people what is possible on the platform and learn as we continue to work with video partners around the world.”

Last week, Facebook expanded the availability of the Video to more people in the U.S. on iOS and Android. The Video tab — located on the bottom navigation bar on iOS and on the top navigation bar on Android — and is “a new destination for people to discover all kinds of video content they may be interested in,” the company said in announcing the wider rollout of the feature.

As for advertising, Facebook has recently tested serving ads in live video content and a company rep it will continue to explore different forms of monetization that will make distributing content on the platform a sustainable business for partners.

The new Facebook strategy is reminiscent of YouTube’s original channels launch in 2012, under which the Google-owned video site spent upwards of $200 million to fund content for about 100 channels. YouTube has since taken a different tack, producing and financing original TV series and films for its own subscription-video service, YouTube Red.

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