Netflix and Facebook Want to Make TV News Great Again

TV news has gotten a bad rep, especially with younger generations.

Only 8% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 are getting their news from network TV, vs. 49% of those who are ages 65 and older, according to Pew Research.

But it's not just young people who may have lost interest in the 24/7 TV news coverage. At the beginning of 2016, 57% of U.S. adults were turning the TV on for their news updates; two years later, that figure has dropped to 50%.

It's important to note that this doesn't mean young people don't care about news. They just want it in a different package. The New York Times' daily 20-minute news podcast, aptly titled The Daily, hit 100 million downloads in October 2017 and claims a noticeably younger audience; two-thirds are under 40 and a third are under 30.

Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) are choosing to see this as an opportunity to step in and lay claim to a waning market. The two companies are well known to millennials, so they just might be able to change the perception that TV news is for the older folks.

Facebook to add TV News to its new Watch tab

Facebook launched the Watch tab, its home for original videos from publishers, just seven months ago. While the Watch content so far has focused on food, travel, and other lighter fare, Facebook now wants to add some hard news videos to the tab.

The social media giant is talking with 10 major news outlets about the possibility of making three-minute daily news videos starting this summer, The Wall Street Journal reported on March 14. that Facebook is still working out how much it would pay publishers for being a part of the project and what the effect would be on its revenue.

Campbell Brown, who heads Facebook's news partnerships team, touched on the topic in February at Recode's Code Media conference. She said she was hopeful that they could bring hard-news video to the site, but also noted that those types of videos are hard to monetize because people come to Facebook for fun videos, not news shows.

Facebook is in a bit of a tight spot with the media right now. On one hand, it launched the Facebook Journalism Project in January 2017 to support up-and-coming journalists. The project recently launched a new tool called Local News Subscriptions Accelerator to help local U.S. news outlets get a much-needed boost to their subscription figures.

On the other hand, Facebook has also made life difficult and unpredictable for the media. Recent changes to its News Feed algorithm caused the news content in users' feeds to drop to 4% from 5%. Two Facebook publishers, Little Things and, have already had to shutter their doors due to a dramatic drop in traffic.

Back in 2016 Facebook made deals with CNN and The New York Times to make live videos for its News Feed, but then Facebook ended up not renewing a lot of those deals. Getting suddenly dropped from the project was frustrating for the publishers and their Live Video teams. And that's all on top of Facebook's much-criticized role in the spread of fake news.

Netflix to bring unbiased news to its 118 million subscribers

If any company has the budget to play around with a news show, it's Netflix. In 2018, the streaming giant expects to spend between $7.5 billion and $8 billion on content. The company plans to release 700 TV, film, and stand-up comedy projects this year, Netflix CFO David Wells said at a conference in February.

One of those TV projects could be a "weekly news magazine show" that would be reminiscent of 60 Minutes and 20/20, MarketWatch reported on March 13. Netflix wants to make a show about current events that would give special attention to being fair to both Democrats and Republicans, a source told the publication.

Netflix seems to have been inching toward hard news recently. In January, Netflix premiered a six-episode long-form talk show with host David Letterman, formerly of The Late Show. Letterman's guests included Barack Obama, George Clooney, and Tina Fey. In addition, Netflix is in advanced talks with Barack and Michelle Obama about multiple shows, all of which would give them a post-presidency platform to speak to their supporters.

While people seem increasingly weary of the constant political news cycle, there have also been signs that people are actually more interested in the news now than before the 2016 election. Newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post have seen their subscriptions take off.

So, perhaps this is the opportune moment for millennial-focused companies like Facebook and Netflix to test their hand at hard news videos.

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Natalie Walters has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.