Facebook has long viewed itself as a ‘video-first’ platform. Facebook Live, the company's live streaming service, debuted in April 2016, with its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly trumpeting live video as the future of online content. Now, the social media giant has confirmed rumoured plans to launch a video app for TV.
‘People are watching and sharing more video on Facebook than ever, and we’re focused on continuously improving the video experience’, wrote Dana Sittler, Facebook’s product manager, and Alex Li, the company’s engineering manager, in a blog post that appeared on Tuesday.
‘Today, we’re excited to share several updates that make watching video on Facebook richer, more engaging and more flexible.’
The new TV app will ‘roll out soon to app stores for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV’, with more platforms added in due course.
‘Last year we rolled out the ability for you to stream videos from Facebook to your TV, and today’s announcement expands this capability,’ wrote Sittler and Li. ‘With the app, you can watch videos shared by friends or Pages you follow, top live videos from around the world, and recommended videos based on your interests.’
The app will also enable users to watch saved videos, as well as videos they have already watched, shared or uploaded.
News of the app's launch comes in a week in which Facebook teamed up with Univision, the US-based Spanish-language broadcaster, to show 46 matches from Liga MX, the top flight of Mexican club soccer.
Sport, and particularly soccer, has been central to Facebook’s video strategy to date. Last year, the company signed scores of content contracts with companies and well-known athletes, committing some US$50 million on forging rights relationships for its Live service.
FC Barcelona, the highest-paid sports entity with which Facebook has a deal, is said by the Wall Street Journal to receive just over US$1 million under a ten-month agreement that runs through March of this year.
As well as adding sound to videos in user news feeds, Facebook will also implement changes designed to optimise vertical videos for mobile devices. ‘Last year we began testing a larger preview of vertical videos in News Feed on mobile,’ wrote Sittler and Li. ‘People responded positively, so that larger format is now available to everyone watching videos on iOS and Android.’
Additionally, Facebook will make it possible for users to ‘watch and scroll’, with videos set to continue playing in a minimise viewing window while a user scrolls through their news feed.
‘You can drag the video to any corner of the screen,’ explained Tuesday’s blog post, ‘and if you’re using an Android device, you can keep the video playing even when you exit the Facebook app to do something else on your phone.’