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Facebook is making its biggest push yet to turn the social network into a destination for watching video with a new Facebook Video app for smart TVs. The move further accelerates Facebook's competition with Alphabet's YouTube, and also shows how it is looking to snag ad dollars and viewers' attention from the big leagues -- broadcast television.
Facebook VP of partnerships Dan Rose announced the new app on stage at Recode's Code Media conference on Tuesday, as well as in a blog post. The app will serve as a destination for all the videos on Facebook -- sort of like the video tab at the bottom of the main app -- and will combine videos shared by friends or pages you follow, top live videos from around the world and videos the app recommends based on your interests. Facebook users will be able to save videos from their regular Facebook app to watch when they're sitting in front of the TV later.
The app will initially be available on app stores for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV, with other devices to come.
The Facebook Video app fits into Facebook's new strategy of paying creators for exclusive professional video content. The more Facebook gets people to watch its videos on their TVs in their living room, the more it will be able to compete with television, as well as Hulu and YouTube, for content and ad dollars.
Facebook is also improving the video experience on its mobile apps: you'll be able to minimize a video you're watching to a picture-in-picture view while you keep scrolling through your newsfeed (on iOS) or do other tasks on your phone (on Android). YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and other video apps already offer this feature, which encourages people to keep watching for longer.
Also, following Snapchat's success with vertical video, Facebook is making vertical videos look better in the mobile news feed.
And one change that might be surprising to people scrolling through their news feed while in a meeting: videos will play with sound as soon as you scroll past them, as long as your volume is on your phone. Up until now you've had to tap on a video to hear sound. Users can disable the feature or keep their phone on silent, but Facebook says in the post announcing the news that people "have come to expect sound when the volume on the device is turned on."