Snap Inc will release a dozen original series on its mobile app, betting that a new entertainment lineup can maintain its grip on teenage users and provide an edge over Facebook Inc’s Instagram. The programming slate, announced Wednesday, marks Snap’s biggest push into funding and producing its own content. The idea is to keep users on the Snapchat app for longer periods of time — and sell advertising to companies looking to reach a youthful audience. The rollout includes “Endless Summer,” a docuseries about social-media influencers in Laguna Beach, California, and “Class of Lies,” a scripted show about college roommates coping with the disappearance of their best friend.
The move builds on Snap’s first foray into original programming in 2016, when it launched “Good Luck America.’’ That show, hosted by former CNN correspondent Peter Hamby, explored US politics ahead of the presidential election. Since then, Snap has released more than 60 original series through partnerships with other media companies. Comcast Corp’s NBC produces a daily news show “Stay Tuned,’’ while Walt Disney Co’s ESPN has a daily edition of its highlights program “SportsCenter.’’ The ESPN show attracts more than 2 million viewers a day and 17 million viewers a month. Original programming “has been a huge success for us,’’ said Sean Mills, the Snap executive who oversees the project.
Still, the company faces an ever-more crowded marketplace for TV shows. And the money-losing business is under enormous financial pressure. In addition to competition from Instagram, Snap is facing a fresh threat from Facebook’s new Stories format. The company is “quickly running out of money” and may need to raise capital by the middle of next year, analyst Michael Nathanson said this week. Shares of Snap have lost more than half their value this year. But Snapchat still has a lock on teen users, and the company hopes to capitalize on that advantage with the new programming. The content also is tailor-made for mobile phones. Shows will be short and move quickly, seldom running more than three to five minutes. Writers know to introduce major plot points early in the program to hook the viewer.
Not surprisingly, Snap’s programming lineup focuses on the travails of young adults. A scripted show called “Co-Ed” centers on college roommates “juggling classes, parties and down-the-hall crushes.” The documentary series “Vivian,” meanwhile, is about the youngest model scout at the Wilhelmina agency. Snap is working with a number of producers on the shows, which will begin launching this week. The air date of some programs is still being determined. The company’s approach has been guided by how its users post content to the Snapchat app, Mills said.
Also Read: Now users can send musical GIFs on Snapchat
“We were driven by this idea that mobile is a new medium,” he said. “How users tell stories informed how we would try to tell stories.”