Snap Is Betting You’ll Want to “Discover” Their Original Programming



Snap is counting on original programming to win back the hearts of departed users—and to pique the curiosity of new ones.


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“What I love about Snap is that it has the beating heart of an entertainment company inside it.”

It was with this bold statement that Snap’s Head of Original Content Sean Mills unveiled the company’s ambitious plans for a slate of original programming to live under its Discover tab. Snap Originals will be a collection of scripted and reality micro-programs, created in partnership with television powerhouses like Bunim-Murray Productions (creators of The Real World) and the Duplass brothers’ creative agency.

Twelve “serialized” shows are planned for the rollout, differing in that they will follow a narrative over a “season.” Programming currently created by partners such as ESPN, Viacom, the NBA and the NFL doesn’t follow that model, thus making this a true departure for the platform. Among new offerings: Class of Lies, a show about college students who start a true crime podcast after a friend goes missing; Endless Summer, a show in the vein of MTV’s Laguna Beach; and Co-Ed, another college-set project by the aforementioned Duplass brothers.

“Fast-Paced and Hyper Visual”

Snap Originals are shot vertically, average five minutes in length, and will premiere daily; Mills is counting on this pacing and style to engage users in a way different from other streaming content providers. The goal? To distinguish the platform as a home for programming that mimics the habits of existing Snapchat users. Snap’s VP of Content Nick Bell buys strongly into this methodology, pointing out, “Really good mobile content is cut vertically; it’s very fast-paced, it’s hyper-visual—and that’s really how Snapchatters are communicating.”

A Chance to Reassert Authority

Taking cues from existing users and how they create content is seen as key to bringing in new viewers—and hopefully, new Snapchat users. “If the programming really resonates with the demographic, people will go into school or the workplace and they’ll tell their friends about it,” Bell speculated. “We hope that’ll bring new people into the app,” likely in the way House of Cards and Orange is the New Black did for Netflix, or The Handmaid’s Tale for Hulu. Mills is optimistic about the foothold this will allow Snap to reclaim after a controversial redesign and a loss of users: “I feel like I’m watching the beginning of a fundamentally new medium, where people are just waking up to how you have to take a very different creative approach.”

Originals allow Snapchat to expand in areas where it already excels. In addition to capitalizing upon the success of programming already hosted on Discover (18 current shows exceed 10 million viewers monthly), its programming will feature augmented reality elements other streaming shows haven’t yet debuted. Swiping up during a show will let users interact with filters from the world of the show, engaging viewers in a wholly new way.

Debra Aho Williams lauded Snap for the “creative and unique” elements of its medium, and says what Mills and Bell are likely thinking: “If it keeps executing and making smart moves, then things will turn around for the company.”

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