Snapchat needs reasons for teens to come back every day as it struggles to grow amidst competition from Instagram, so it’s capitalizing on its Los Angeles roots. Today Snapchat unveiled its fall slate of a dozen “Original” video shows including its first scripted programs from top producers like Keeping Up With The Kardashians creator Bunim/Murray.
The Snapchat Originals will appear in Discover, which will soon have a dedicated section for Shows, as well as new permanent Show Profile pages available through Snapchat search. And with new Show Portal lenses, users can stick an augmented reality doorway in their Snaps that they can walk through to explore a scene from the Show and then tap to watch that Show, allowing them to spread virally.
“Time spent watching shows on Snapchat has tripled this year alone” Snap’s VP of Original Content Sean Mills tells me. The stats on Snap’s previous 60 shows since the project launched two years ago made it clear there was an opportunity to double down, especially as original mobile programming efforts like Facebook Watch and Instagram’s IGTV have stumbled. NBC News’ twice daily show Stay Tuned has doubled viewership in the past year to 5 million unique viewers per day, over half of which watch at least 3 days per week, while SporsCenter’s show reaches 17 million monthly viewers.
Snap Inc was cagey about sharing exactly how the deals to produce the shows work. Some Originals are funded entirely by Snapchat, some fully by production studios, and some are joint efforts. They’re always shot vertically for Snapchat and will at least be exclusive to the platform for a window of time. Originals will be monetized by two or three six-second unskippable Commercial ads in each show sold by Snap, the producers, or again a combination. Snap will try to seduce advertisers by pimping out its new Originals at the NewFrontsWest conference today in LA.
Though the slate of Originals look higher quality than much of the reality-style and vlogger video content already made for mobile, Mills says Snap isn’t ready to commit the resources to forge its own tentpole Game Of Thrones or House Of Cards. “We’re still in the phase of learning about what the audience wants. We’re not setting up for one premium epic show that’s going to bring in all the rest” Mills tells me. “It’s possible that in three months or six months we’ll start making bigger bets after learning what works.”
After losing 3 million daily users and sinking to 188 million total last quarter, Snapchat needs something to reverse the growth trend. While Instagram and Facebook’s other apps have copied Snapchat’s Stories and visual messaging features, the Silicon Valley giant has yet to nail how to do premium mobile video content. If Snapchat can be the place for must-see TV on the go, it could lure in new and churned users looking for a relaxing escape from the competitive world of social media success theater.
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