The First Wave of Facebook Original Series Will Include a Show About People Helping Their Communities

Returning the Favor headlines what should mostly end up being family-friendly content.

After The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Facebook was planning to push into original video, we haven’t heard much about what kind of shows that push would include. We’re getting a better idea this week, with Deadline reporting that the two more shows have been locked in. Facebook has ordered the two series, although the number of episodes for each is unknown.

Returning the Favor will try to add some much-needed goodness to the often contentious world of Facebook. Hosted by Mike Rowe, the show will feature people across the nation who go out of their way to help their communities. The show has already started filming, with one episode including a mechanic who starts an organization to help returning veterans with PTSD.

The second one? Well, if you can’t get enough of Lavar Ball’s antics, good news. The basketball dad and newly minted sneaker magnate is getting what figures to be a Kardashian-like reality show centered around him and his three sons, Lonzo, Liangelo, and LaMelo. Liangelo and LaMelo are still in high school and preparing to go to UCLA for basketball like their older brother Lonzo, who was recently taken second overall in the NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s going to be a very Los Angeles show.

While the two new shows represent a new strategy that will pit Facebook against Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, Facebook has an interesting advantage they’ll no doubt try to exploit — their social network. With a readymade platform for discussing their shows, Facebook likely wants original video that gets people talking — and more importantly, gets people sharing.

A recent Wall Street Journal report revealed a few more partners, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, Vox Media, and ATTNLoosely Exactly Nicole, which originally ran on MTV before being canceled after one season, will also come to Facebook. That appears similar to the Netflix strategy of snatching up discarded series with small but passionate fanbases. Overall, the report indicates that Facebook wants to avoid R-rated content with nudity or profanity. They also want to avoid potentially controversial content like news or politics — with a big focus on conversations around their shows, Facebook is well aware of what might happen if they went down that road.

Avoiding controversy also works well for advertisers, which is the whole point. Facebook shows will have ads, and Facebook will try to use their social network to gain an advantage here, too. Show creators will be able to sell ad space directly to others on Facebook. Ultimately, that should result in ads that are more relevant to audiences than ads served using automated systems, which often miss the mark by relying on browsing activity without being able to properly contextualize the data.

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