Facebook Makes Reality TV Its New Weapon


Facebook said on Wednesday it was reviving the pioneering MTV reality show “The Real World” as its secret weapon to lure viewers away from YouTube.

The social media giant said it was also trying to harness the formidable online power of the “cute kitten” factor with a new show called “World’s Most Amazing Dog” on its new Facebook Watch platform.

Users who think their pooch is cute enough to be a contender can enter audition videos from their phones, it told TV executives at MIPCOM in Cannes, the world’s top entertainment showcase.

The company’s head of video Paresh Rajwat said Facebook Watch — which began to be rolled out in the US last year — was now available across the world, with “the time people spend on it increasing by 14 times since”.

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“The Real World” was one of the first “social experiment” TV reality shows when it aired in 1992, spawning others like “Big Brother”.

It turns on the moment when “seven strangers put together to stop being polite and start being real,” said Facebook’s content and strategy chief Matthew Henick.

‘New genre of TV’

Three versions of the new Facebook variant of the show will be launched simultaneously in the US, Mexico, and Thailand.

Users will be able to “co-watch with their friends and interact with the contestants”, stealing a march on its internet rivals, Henick told the gathering in the French Riviera resort.

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Rajwat said Facebook Watch was “completely open” and was already being used by broadcasters, with new contestants on Germany’s “X Factor” recently being introduced to fans on the platform before they made their TV debuts.

He said its interactivity means “watching videos doesn’t have to be a passive experience… with friends able to co-watch together in real time”.

A new service called “Watch Party” allowing “people to watch and comment all at the same time” has already been used on celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s “Veggie Challenge”, he added.

A Facebook Watch show called “Sorry For Your Loss” about a “young widow struggling to put her life back together has led to long meaningful conversations about dealing with grief”, Rajwat said, with many users “offering help to people who lost their beloveds. This is where Facebook is different,” he said.

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MTV boss Chris McCarthy predicted that Facebook Watch was going to “create a whole a new genre of shared reality TV”, and help shows lift off when it was “harder and harder to break through with more and more content” out there.

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