Facebook opens new front in video battle with YouTube and Twitter

YouTube and Twitter may have thought that [company]Facebook[/company] was busy with other things than video, such as building up its search functions and tweaking the algorithm to show more content from existing media sources, but according to a report in the Wall Street Journal the social-networking giant is looking to cut some major deals to bring video onto the platform. In one of the first salvos in that direction, the National Football League will start posting video clips on Facebook this week.

According to the terms of the deal, the NFL arrangement is also a video advertising play: NFL highlight and news clips will be followed by ads from Verizon — which will also pay to promote the videos to NFL fans through Facebook’s in-house ad platform — and the football league and Facebook will split the ad revenue, although the exact details of how that split will break down are unknown.

As the WSJ piece points out, this deal is significant in part because the NFL is notoriously stingy with its video rights, and routinely prevents even its partner networks — who pay handsomely for the ability to show games on television — from posting clips or highlights to social platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

Shot across the bow

But the more significant aspect of the NFL deal is that it is more evidence that Facebook wants to move aggressively into video — especially since it comes on the heels of news that the social network has been approaching YouTube stars about putting more of their content on Facebook, something that could stand to blow a rather large hole in YouTube’s monetization strategy (the social network is also beefing up the video section of its pages to look more YouTube-like).

The NFL deal is also a blow for Twitter, since it is more or less identical to the partnership that Twitter signed with the football league last year. And Facebook, with its billion-plus worldwide user base, is undoubtedly a far more attractive option for the NFL and other sports leagues than Twitter. The NFL may even have used Twitter as a kind of trial balloon for its social-networking plans, before signing up with Facebook.

As Peter Kafka at Re/code notes, Facebook is already a massive force in video: according to the company’s recent estimates, users are already watching more than a billion video clips every day (YouTube says its users watch six billion hours of video every month) and video viewership is reportedly growing at a massive rate — although exactly how much of a clip a user has to watch in order to qualify as a “viewer” remains a closely-guarded secret.