Facebook is finally getting ready to unveil its premium video efforts. The company announced a new “Watch” tab for its mobile apps Wednesday afternoon, which will feature professionally-produced short-form content from a variety of partners, including A&E, Hearst, MLB, Time Inc., and others.
The new tab, as well as the premium content partnerships, are part of a major expansion into video that executives have hinted at for months. As part of that roll-out, Facebook will also make Watch available on desktop as well as via its connected TV apps, a spokesperson told Variety.
Some of the shows will be live, including MLB’s live broadcast of a baseball game every Friday night. And Facebook will introduce a new page type for shows to make it easier to browse and discover episodic content.
However, Watch will initially only be available to a limited number of users in the U.S. as part of a test before Facebook eventually launches it for everyone.
Facebook executives have repeatedly talked about seeding their video ambitions with direct investments in content over the past couple of months, and the company’s CFO David Wehner said during a recent earnings call that these investments will show up in Facebook’s balance sheets toward the end of the year. “Video will continue to be a big focus and area of investment for us,” he said.
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the deals the company made with its partners for this rollout, but she confirmed that Facebook had opened its pocketbook for the production of at least two titles: “Returning the Favor” starring Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame, a show that explores the theme of community and giving back; and “Ball in the Family,” a reality series about the family of LaVar Ball.
The company envisions to eventually open up its premium video platform to all kinds of creators. At launch, Facebook aims to have several hundred shows on its platform, including the following slate of shows from major partners:
— A&E’s “Bae or Bail,” which Facebook describes this way: “Unsuspecting couples put their relationship and wits to the test as they’re thrown into terrifying scenarios.”
— All Def Digital’s “Inside the Office,” which is billed as a workplace about Russell Simmons’ online venture.
— Brit & Co‘s “Tiny Houses,” a show about — you guessed it — tiny houses.
— Cheddar is launching a live news show.
— Condé Nast Entertainment’s “Virtually Dating,” a show that has couples dating in virtual reality.
— David Lopez’s “My Social Media Life,” a reality TV show about the social media star.
— Golden State Warriors’ “Championship Rewind,” a look at the Warriors’ 2016-17 championship season.
— Hearst Magazines Digital Media’s “Wiki What,” a show that has celebrities reviewing Wikipedia pages hosted by comedian Josh Gondelman (writer for HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”).
— Univision Deportes‘ “Liga MX,” featuring live matches.
— McClatchy’s “Titletown TX,” a high school football show that Facebook bills as “a real-life version of ‘Friday Night Lights.'”
— Major League Baseball’s “MLB Live,” featuring a live blackout-free Major League Baseball game every Friday night.
— MLS and Univision Deportes’ “MLS en Univision” features live MLS games on Facebook.
— National Geographic’s “We’re Wired that Way,” a science show about the way humans tick.
— Nas Daily, a show from travel blogger Nuseir Yassin.
— NBA’s “WNBA All-Access” aims to give a behind-the-scenes look at WNBA stars.
— Tastemade’s “Kitchen Little,” a kids’ cooking show.
— Time, Inc.’s “Celeb Moms Get Real,” a look at how stars who are parents.
— Thrillist’s “Food/Groups,” a show about local communities and their food.
— WSL’s “WSL Surfing Sundays” aims to capture all the best waves and best surfing from World Surf League Championship Tour events.
Todd Spangler contributed to this report.