Facebook continues pumping more money into its strategy of trying to engage users with new video and music content.
The social giant has renewed Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk” talk show — which has become Facebook Watch’s most popular original series overall — for more than 20 new episodes. It’s also rolling out a new feature with Spotify that will let users link to songs on the music-streaming service from their profile pages, and the company is launching an extension of its Watch Party co-viewing service to let fans come together to chat about live TV events.
“Red Table Talk” has built a community of millions of Facebook fans, who tune in to the discussion on a range of topics hosted by Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield Norris (aka Gammy) along with guests. Season 2 episodes are slated to hit Facebook Watch starting in May 2019.
The show’s most recent episode featuring an emotional interview with Jordyn Woods set a new record as the most-viewed Facebook original episode in the first 24 hours, with 7.5 million people watching for at least one minute on the first day. In the episode, Woods addressed rumors that she had sex with NBA star Tristan Thompson, the father of Khloe Kardashian’s daughter, at a party over this past Presidents Day weekend. Woods — who has been Kylie Jenner’s best friend — admitted she kissed Thompson and got “touchy-feely” with him, but denied sleeping with him.
“Original shows on Watch should strike a chord in the broader cultural zeitgeist or serve a group of people with something they can’t get elsewhere,” Facebook head of video products Paresh Rajwat and Tamara Hrivnak, head of music business development and partnerships, said in a statement. “The women of ‘Red Table Talk’… have done that through their candid conversations about things like addiction, loss, domestic violence, race relations and more, sharing their truths and involving their audience along the way.”
“Red Table Talk” now has 5.6 million followers on Facebook, while the official companion discussion group has more than 477,000 members. The show is produced by Westbrook Studios, a short-form content company owned by Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Miguel Melendez and Very Tall Productions.
Westbrook Studios also is producing another Facebook Watch show — from Pinkett Smith’s husband: “Will Smith’s Bucket List,” with the actor engaging in different adventures around the world. “Bucket List” has one of the biggest debuts for a Watch series, with the first episode garnering over 40 million views since its Feb. 27 bow.
Other original shows Facebook is funding for Watch include the upcoming “SKAM Austin” season 2 and community-voting elements for the reboot of MTV’s “The Real World,” set to debut on Facebook Watch this spring with simultaneous seasons from the U.S., Thailand and Mexico.
On the music front, Facebook is adding a new feature: the ability for users to tap through to Spotify from a songs on their friends’ profile pages, letting them listen to the full song and discover more from the artist. According to Facebook, it plans to add integration with more listening services in the next few weeks.
That expands on Facebook’s other music features, which include the ability for users to share music in their personal videos. First rolled out last October in 15 countries, that’s now available in more than 40 countries including the two newest territories, Thailand and India.
Finally, Facebook said it will be testing a new Watch Party experience that will let uses host co-viewing sessions around what’s happening on live TV, starting with live sporting events like UEFA Champions League soccer matches. Originally intended for co-viewing of video streaming on Facebook, the company is now extending Watch Party to support discussions around video content that is not on Facebook.
Here’s how it works: a new option for Watch Party called “on TV” will let users select a live event. Instead of video, the Watch Party will feature the live game score as the group reacts. Facebook also plans to test interactive tools for Watch Parties, like letting hosts add trivia questions about player stats or pushing live polls (about, say, which team will win). “While we’re testing this initially with sports, we can’t wait to bring it to all kinds of live events and cultural moments, from awards shows to highly anticipated show premieres and more,” Facebook’s Rajwat and Hrivnak said.
Facebook made the announcements Wednesday at SXSW.