MENLO PARK, CA: Facebook has introduced a new Watch feature that lets users discover videos from outside their feed more easily and which prefigures the social media business making a serious challenge for YouTube ad budgets.

The Watch tab replaces the Videos tab which launched last year and, Daniel Danker, Director of Product explained in a blog post, “is personalized to help you discover new shows, organized around what your friends and communities are watching”.

In addition to a “What Friends Are Watching” section, there are also ones based on, for example, shows that spark conversation (“Most Talked About”) and shows where many people have used the “Haha” reaction (“What’s Making People Laugh”).

Having found content they like, a Watchlist feature enables users to subscribe to updates on new episodes of their favorite shows.

“When you watch a show, you can see comments and connect with friends and other viewers while watching, or participate in a dedicated Facebook Group for the show,” Danker added.

Facebook expects that Watch will eventually become home to a wide range of shows, from reality to comedy to live sports.

“We want any publisher/creator who is interested to be able to create a show in the future,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “So there will be hundreds of shows at launch, and we’ll hopefully scale to thousands.”

Partners producing exclusive original video content will earn 55% of ad break revenue while Facebook keeps 45%.

While the model, currently only available to a limited group of users in the US, appears to have YouTube firmly in its sights, some observers suggested it could be more ambitious.

“This move is far more than just the creation of a new tab on Facebook,” said Dror Ginzberg, co-Founder & CEO of video creation platform Wochit.

“This is effectively the launch of Facebook TV and I think we can count on this being the first step toward the social media giant broadcasting its own original content.”

Data sourced from Facebook, TechCrunch; additional content by WARC staff