Publishers are happy to take Facebook’s funding for original video programming, but several existing and potential content partners expressed doubts that the company is committed to short-form shows for the long run.
Facebook is paying for both long- and short-form shows as part of its initiative. With long-form shows, which Facebook would entirely own, Facebook is willing to shell out as much as $250,000 per episode — equaling low-end cable TV budgets. These will be only a handful of shows, however, as most of Facebook’s deals so far concern short-form programming that runs anywhere between four and 10 minutes per episode. These are called “spotlight” shows by Facebook, which has signed up BuzzFeed, Attn, Mashable, Group Nine Media and others as partners.
For short-form shows, Facebook is willing to pay $10,000 to $40,000 per episode. Here, the media partner would retain the rights to the show, which they can distribute on their own site after seven days on Facebook or other platforms 14 days after premiering on Facebook.
Unlike Snap, which is also seeking exclusive shows, media partners describe a relationship where Facebook is more “hands off” with the short-form shows it’s buying. After a pitch process, Facebook selects which ideas it likes and orders full seasons outright, instead of piloting them. (Sources that are working with Facebook on the long-form shows describe a different situation where Facebook is more involved.)
“They’re trying to move as quickly as they can to launch this, so it’s more focused on getting big partners on board versus actually programming,” said one publisher that’s sold a short-form series to Facebook. “In that way, it feels like the first round of YouTube grants.”
It’s an approach that has rubbed some digital publishing partners the wrong way.
“Doesn’t this just scream that Facebook is only half in on this?” said one top Facebook video publisher. “If they came in with stricter guidelines — ‘We’re ponying up cash so [these shows] can only be on Facebook’ — we’d see them as tough negotiators, but at least we’d feel that they were serious about being a video destination versus trying to lure media partners in with yet another product.”
Much of the trepidation comes from publishers that have been paid by Facebook in the past to create content — specifically, for Facebook Live — and now fear a bit of déjà vu.