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Facebook Continues Push Into Online Streaming Despite Limited Traction

Despite gaining limited traction with its two-year push into online television, Facebook plans dozens of new shows in 2019 including three new seasons of MTV’s The Real World.

Facebook revealed the details on Tuesday about its next steps for Facebook Watch while pitching it as a safe space for advertisers.

Three new seasons of MTV’s The Real World in the United States, Mexico, and Thailand will premiere on the service along with animated comedy series Human Discoveries, starring Anna Kendrick and Zac Efron. The shows will join the previously announced Stephen vs. The Game, a show that follows the life of Golden State Warriors basketball star Stephen Curry.

In a recent statement, Facebook said in it would renew only about a third of news shows on Facebook Watch, a sign that the shows failed to attract many viewers. Facebook had paid news organizations to create the shows, raising hopes that the streaming service could be a new outlet for highly-produced news at time of struggle for much of the news industry.

With Watch, Facebook is trying to expand from its social networking roots to compete in the burgeoning field of online video streaming. YouTube Red, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Sling are just a few of the rivals that have big head starts.

Facebook doesn’t reveal viewership for Watch. But by all accounts, the service has yet to gain much momentum.

Facebook is also tweaking its ad system for Facebook Watch, whereby marketers can buy slots for commercials for a particular Watch show during its entire season. Previously, marketers could only buy ads quarterly.

The new ad system, called Showcase, is intended to take advantage of Facebook’s social media side, especially Facebook Groups. Viewers can create watch parties and discuss episodes in Groups, creating prime locations for targeted ads.

“In these groups, people take the topics from the show and start discussing how it relates to their real life. What we’ve seen is that people actually start their own groups tied to their community and their own region,” said Matthew Henick, head of content strategy at Facebook.

Facebook emphasized that shows on Watch are all human-reviewed and “brand-safe” for advertisers. The sales pitch was a thinly veiled dig at YouTube, which was rocked last week by a report saying that it had run ads just before videos that were associated with pedophilia.