Social goes Hollywood – FaceFlix anyone?

Not content with pushing out clips of cats scared of cucumbers (yep it’s a thing), the likes of Facebook and Google now want to start streaming Hollywood blockbusters straight to your device…

It comes as no real surprise that the behemoths of Silicon Valley are fascinated in ‘going Hollywood’ as they are already making some rather big bets on both video and mobile. No doubt they are also buoyed by the success of Netflix / Amazon plus the much vaunted demise of the cable TV subscription model. No wonder that speculation is rife that they are seeking to muscle in on the act…

And it makes an awful lot of sense to me. Imagine this scenario… you go on Facebook to update your status and notice that all your friends are posting positive comments about the latest episode of your favourite show. You desperately want to watch it to see what all the fuss is about. Simple. Just click on the gif below the comments of your peers and have the show streamed straight onto your device (for a price of course). Watch it, then join in the conversation with your pals and the virtuous circle is complete. Sounds cool right? A natural blend of Facebook and Netflix. FaceFlix perhaps? (don’t forget, you heard it here first).

And talking of Netflix they have become a beacon for success. From their humble beginnings as a DVD-by-post service they have transformed into a US $40 billion business with some 75 million subscribers around the globe. Not only that but they have produced unique & award winning programming such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Making a Murderer.

Not to be outdone, Amazon are also investing heavily in their own ‘Originals’ programming boasting A-list tinseltown talent and super high production values. Check out the likes of Alpha House, Casanova and Hand of God if you need any further proof of their content chops. And that’s before we even get to see their US $250m version of Top Gear (whatever it may be called) with the classic line-up of Clarkson, Hammond and May (where do I sign up?).

As a consequence, Amazon Prime have added millions of new customers to boost their base to 46 million and they have also won slew of awards along the way. Given that the likes of Facebook and Google own so much of our screen time it’s not a huge stretch to figure out why they want ‘in’. According to Blair Westlake (former chairman of Universal Television):

“They are in awe of the clout Netflix carries with both consumers and media companies. None of the tech companies have anything that even comes close”

It’s not like these companies couldn’t afford to buy them either. They are hugely cash rich, so targets such as Warner Bros, Paramount or even the likes of Netflix themselves would be well within their potential purchasing power (assuming the owners would want to sell – though everything has its price right?). So that in turn leads to another question… would they actually want to buy the capabilities or would they would prefer to build their own?

The tip of the spear for Google is their new offering, YouTube Red, a $9.99 monthly ad-free subscription model offering the expected array of movies, TV shows and music videos. Jim Berkus, the chairman of United Talent, said of the launch:

“It felt like a new day in Hollywood, and [YouTube] is a big part of our future. We always ask, ‘When will Google buy into Hollywood and acquire a studio or network?’ The answer is they already have by their ambitious plans for YouTube”

And it’s pretty clear that YouTube’s strategy has been formulated, in part at least, to fight off the ever present threat of Facebook. Video has become an obsession for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook now claims 8 billion video views a day. As one unknown source is quoted “Facebook is the biggest existential threat at YouTube.”

And with the recent advent of Facebook Live coupled with live streaming experiments such as Whoopi Goldberg backstage at this years Oscars and the exclusive trailers for the latest Star Wars movie, it’s pretty obvious what they have in mind. Not only that but they are looking to play YouTube at their own game by attracting the raw talent of the future. Rumour has it that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, has already visited all the major Hollywood talent agencies with a view to encouraging their clientele to start broadcasting on Live. And with an added bonus. Facebook will actually pay some of them to do it.

Add into the mix the monumental investment that Facebook have made in VR via Oculus and the picture becomes even clearer. I reckon it’s only a matter of time before you are watching your favourite TV shows, movies or sporting events whilst you are simultaneously posting a picture of what you are eating for dinner on the same platform…