Behind Hearst’s Facebook Watch Programming Strategy

‘Wiki What?’ and ‘Untangled’ aren’t tied to the company’s existing portfolio of legacy brands.

09/12/2017

Facebook WatchHearst Magazines Digital Media’s new series ‘Wiki What?’ premiered its first episode last week initially on the Facebook Watch platform. Hosted by comedian Josh Gondelman, a writer on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the weekly, five-episode show features an array of celebrity guests and, similar to the company’s other recent video premiere ‘Untangled,’ was released without any ad partners or association with another title.

These new series indicate a new focus for the company’s larger video strategy—building out an HDM Originals video team. This team will be exclusively focused on developing and producing original series for the company’s partners (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Amazon, and others).

Michael Mraz, Hearst Magazines Digital Media executive director of audience and strategic partnerships, tells min that he loves “the guaranteed distribution that our partners provide and we especially love that Facebook is helping finance original series such as ‘Wiki What?’ and ‘Untangled.’”

The struggle to determine which platform is the best to release video content has long been a question plaguing magazine media. However, by releasing these episodic series on Facebook Watch, Hearst is hoping to turn them into brands of their own. It also offers the company inventory for its branded sites like Esquire, who wraps the video into a promo article about the series.

“We see ‘Wiki What?’ and ‘Untangled’ as series that become brands onto themselves,” Mraz says. “Other series for other platforms, however, have originated alongside the incredible edit teams at our brands here at Hearst, such as Cosmopolitan and Delish. We’ll be producing those series together with the video teams at those brands.”

In addition to ‘Wiki What?,’ Hearst Magazines Digital Media’s other show created for Facebook Watch, ‘Untangled,’ premiered last Wednesday. According to a release, ‘Untangled’ is “a weekly, five-episode hypnotizing and witty science show that celebrates the powerful sense of satisfaction that comes from watching a world filled with chaos transformed into symmetry and organization.”

The fact that Hearst is only dipping its toe in Facebook Watch clearly indicates that companies are looking to any and all platforms to find the best engagement platforms, even if it means not getting views directly on monetized owned and operated sites.

The company does have more series for Facebook Watch lined up, again with no association to other, more established brands. “We unfortunately can’t share what they are just yet,” says Mraz. “Suffice it to say that the goal with each of our Facebook Watch series is to engage and entertain distinct and unique communities on the platform.”

He adds that these series certainly aren’t a way to drive more to Hearst’s sites, and although there are no ad partners, Hearst is using Facebook Watch to simply “share in the revenue the platform generates along the way.”

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