- Digital publisher Group Nine is collaborating with Facebook on 10 shows for the social network's mobile video platform. Facebook Watch will show programming from Group Nine's NowThis, The Dodo, Thrillist, Popsugar and Seeker online brands, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Shows include new offerings like Popsugar's "K-FitSugar" that teaches viewers how to dance like their favorite K-pop music groups, along with the second season of The Dodo's "You Know Me…Now Meet My Pet" that shows popular social media influencers and their pets. NowThis' "NowThis Nerd Presents: Fantasy" discusses topics inspired by the fantasy fiction genre.
- Group Nine is creating six of the shows as part of Facebook's publisher and creator program that aims to support collaborations among content producers who make exclusive videos for Watch.
Group Nine's new collaboration with Facebook on original programming for Watch arrives as more people view video on smartphones, giving mobile marketers a chance to reach an audience of tech-savvy young adults. Consumption of streaming video content is also surging during the coronavirus pandemic, as people sheltered in place seek entertainment outlets. Facebook's video bets like Watch and Facebook Live have struggled to gain traction in the past, but the latter is at least receiving a boost during the current public health crisis.
Group Nine last year said its brands reach 70% of U.S. consumers ages 18 to 34, and more than 50% of the total population. Those audiences spend more than 50 million hours a month with its content, per data cited by the company. By working with Facebook, the publisher can connect with mobile users that include Gen Z audiences who tend to watch mobile video throughout the day.
Publishers across the board also are experiencing a hit to advertising revenue despite healthy site traffic, as marketers tighten their budgets for an economic downturn and others try to avoid placing ads around content related to the coronavirus. Group Nine's tie-up with Facebook shows some publishers are still looking to strike new deals on channels where it might be easier to engage viewers and monetize their content in the near term.
Group Nine laid off 7% of employees across its company portfolio — roughly 50 people — earlier this month in response to the pandemic, Axios reported.
For Facebook, the expanded programming lineup comes as the social network seeks to compete more effectively against market leader Google, whose high-growth YouTube generates 70% of total watch time from mobile devices, per data cited by Variety. Facebook's recent video efforts include this week's launch of a standalone app called Facebook Gaming for livestreamed gaming content, which additionally looks to rival Amazon's Twitch and Microsoft's Mixer. Instagram, Facebook's photo-sharing app, this month also updated its IGTV video-streaming app to highlight creators who produce long-form videos. By adding Group Nine to its programming mix for Facebook Watch, the social network may expand its mobile video audience.
The additional programming comes as the mobile video market grows more crowded. The mobile-only video startup Quibi, which was founded by Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, launched this month to great fanfare but has shown mixed results as it falls in app store rankings, Media Play News reported.
Social video has other new entrants to consider as well, especially TikTok, the viral video app that's been downloaded 1.9 billion times. YouTube is reportedly developing a similar video-sharing feature called "Shorts" for release by the end of 2020. Instagram also started testing a feature called "Reels" in Brazil to let users create music videos, while Facebook launched an app called Lasso that focuses on viral short-form video content mirroring the TikTok model.