Facebook Will Reportedly Spend $1 Billion on Original Programming

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2016 event on the eve of this week’s Mobile World Congress wireless show, in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016.
(AP Photo/Manu Fernadez)

Facebook is signaling that’s ready to spend a bundle on original TV-style content — upwards of a billion bucks in the next year, according to an anonymously sourced report in the Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal also reported that Apple has earmarked $1 billion in spending on original entertainment over the next year. So perhaps the main takeaway here is that Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg simply wants the market knows he’s willing to play in the same league as Apple, the world’s biggest tech company.

Whether Facebook will actually shell out hundreds of millions for shows it pushes into Watch, its new video-aggregation guide, is another question. The fat billion-dollar number, supposedly through the end of 2018, “could fluctuate based on the success of Facebook’s programming,” according to the Journal report.

There’s reason to be skeptical about how big Facebook’s appetite will be for funding original shows. The company’s strategy with investing in episodic series, execs have consistently said, is to jump-start the video-creator ecosystem on the platform. Its stated long-term ambition is to let thousands of shows bloom without its involvement — operating like YouTube, open to anyone and sharing advertising revenue with content creators and publishers in a 55%-45% split (where the content owner receives the larger portion).

In addition, it’s unclear from the Journal report whether that $1 billion figure includes sports programming deals. The biggest spending by Facebook on video content would likely be around streaming sports: For example, Facebook entered a losing bid of $600 million for five-year rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches, which was won by 21st Century Fox’s Star India for $2.55 billion.

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SOURCE: Variety, Todd Spangler