Facebook is coming to your television. The social network on Tuesday announced a new app for set-top boxes, including Apple TV [pictured above], Amazon Fire TV and the Samsung Smart TV. The app will let you watch the same kinds of video you can already find on Facebook, but (presumably) on a much larger screen.
Dan Rose, Facebook's VP of Partnerships, announced the new app at the Code Media conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, Calif.
"A lot of people when they're watching video on News Feed during the day will save it for later because they don't have time to watch that three-minute video," Rose said. "Now it's easy to go on your TV if you want to do that at night."
The new app, which will launch in the next few weeks, gives Facebook yet another way to reach consumers interested in videos and, most likely, another platform to sell video ads.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the company's video ambitions on its Q4 earnings call earlier this month, saying he wanted Facebook to become the place users go when they "want to watch videos or want to keep up to date with what's going on with their favorite show."
Facebook users were watching more than 100 million hours of video every day in early 2016, and Facebook wants even more. The company is in conversation with video creators to license content and is pushing some of its publishing partners to create longer videos in an effort to get more TV-style content onto the platform.
All of those long-form videos would, presumably, be available on the new TV app.
What's unclear is how much appetite users - and advertisers - will have for a standalone video app. Facebook spent the better part of 2016 testing a dedicated video tab inside its app before finally pushing it out in December, and it's not clear why the test took so long. The company has also tinkered with a video-only feed that included a revenue split with creators.
But while the company has had no problems getting video content, it's hasn't yet figured out how to make serious money from those videos. Facebook has been competing for TV ad dollars for years, and Zuckerberg is against pre-roll ads, an industry norm. The company is just now planning to test mid-roll video ads, but that's not available.
A set-top box app should give Facebook and its partners more opportunities to turn video views into ad dollars. That's the theory. The new app won't include ads "at this time," according to a company spokesperson.
Facebook's set-top TV app will recommend videos for users, or let them watch videos they've saved on other devices to watch later. You will need a Facebook account to use the app. The Wall Street Journal reported in late January that Facebook was building an app for set-top boxes.
Facebook announced a few other updates Tuesday:
* Autoplay videos in News Feed will now play with the sound on, assuming your phone is not on silent. You can disable this feature in settings.
* Facebook is adding a picture-in-picture feature so you can watch videos while continuing to scroll through News Feed.
* Facebook is rolling out vertical video viewing to all users iOS and Android users. Facebook had already been testing this, and claims users were "more likely to watch vertical videos for longer and with the sound on." Facebook mentioned this on its business blog Tuesday, a clear sign that it hopes advertisers will look at vertical video ads down the line.
The new set-top box app will "roll out soon" and will be free, according to a Facebook spokesperson.