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Facebook Plotting Major Video Push

Look for Timeline videos, group social production, more pre-rolls

Video is soon going to take center stage at Facebook.

As part of Facebook’s redesigned News Feed (which will be announced today), it’s expected that users will be able to segment their feeds by topics such as photos, music and videos, per TechCrunch. But according to sources, Facebook is also looking to incorporate more video into its Timeline product, pushing further into social video creation, and, perhaps more importantly, getting a bigger slice of the booming video ad market.

One tool Facebook is planning to unveil soon is a video production tool which would enable groups of friends to film short videos, and put them together in edited clips on Facebook. Friends will also be able to collaborate on music videos.

Video will also find more prominence in Timeline in the form on an ever-present player, per sources. Among the changes being discussed: users would be able to sift through all the video clips they’ve watched on Facebook over time, and also see what video their friends have liked and shared. Another product in the works: users will be able to toggle through a carousel of video clips within Timeline that takes over much of Facebook’s screen—similarly to the way users can currently flip through old photos.

It’s not clear at this juncture whether Facebook is ready to reveal all of its new video toys during today’s News Feed event. But insiders say that company’s commitment is clear; and video will also receive far more promince in the News Feed itself. According to one source, only a handful of staffers at the company were dedicated to video just a year-and-a-half ago. Now there are close to 150 people dedicated to the project, said a source, who has seen of preview of the new tool was said to be “blown away” by some of the video technology Facebook is developing.

The big open question for Facebook’s video aspirations is content. How much does the company want to become a distribution outlet and a video ad sales firm—and possibly even challenge YouTube? According to media executives briefed on Facebook’s plans, the company is definitely interested in delivering more pre-roll ads for content companies distributing clips on the social platform. And several major media companies will be featured as part of today's presentation. But what’s not clear yet is whether Facebook wants to strike deals with the ESPNs and CNNs of the world to place their video clips within the new Timeline treatment—or allowing them to pay for more prominence in the News Feed.

Regardless, all of this is expected to play out in a big way in mobile, where video ads could potentially generate far more revenue than display or text.

Facebook’s inevitable push into more video ads would be welcomed by buyers. "In terms of the size and scope of their ads, Facebook is the most engaging service we’ve got in digital, and their ads quite frankly are [among] the least engaging," said Will Margiloff, CEO of IgnitionOne. "They’re one step up from text-based ads. If Facebook wants to value themselves and their advertising on engagement, then they need to provide ad units that are more engaging.”

Jeff Semones, president, M80 is betting that today’s News Feed announcement will be more about “user interface improvements" rather than ads. But, "I would be surprised if video wasn't part of this announcement or a future one. Every body in digital space sees huge opportunity here. Clients are all spending more on video, especially with mobile."

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