Snapchat, in hot competition with the likes of YouTube and Instagram’s IGTV to capture a growing audience that is replacing traditional TV with online and mobile video programs, now has 5 million people in the UK watching Shows on Snapchat that are produced by premium partners out of the US. Now, parent company Snap is taking the first step towards growing and monetising that audience by giving them more content: it is adding 25 new series out of the UK to the platform from some 17 different content producers, aimed at millennial audiences.
Although Snapchat has been building Discover in the UK for almost a year now, and it has partners producing local content in various other markets around the world, this will be the first time that the company is working specifically with local partners to produce serialised Show content for the platform, Rami Saad, Head of International Content Partnerships at Snap, told TechCrunch at a presentation today. These programs are built and aimed at a US market, he added, but (as with the US content) they will not be geofenced and will be viewable by all Snapchat users.
Today’s news underscores the focus that Snap is putting on building more engagement directly in specific markets, and subsequently its revenues, and how it is looking to TV-style content to do that.
Producers of the programs will range from established brands that have already been producing content for Discover, such as Sky News and Sky Sports and Vice, through to new partners like Culture Trip and Gleam Futures — which describes itself as a management company for digital-first talent and influencers.
Shows will include “Hotspots” looking at controversial story lines in the news; “Most Expensiveist” exploring how the 1% spend their money; and a food/travel show that will highlight extremes in eating and stories behind the scenes of far flung locations.
“We’re happy to be partnering with Snapchat to showcase our brand new digital series Hungerlust, celebrating local dishes from around the world and the passionate people behind the food,” said Mike Fox, Chief Marketing Officer, Culture Trip, in a statement. “At Culture Trip, we’re focused on telling stories that capture what is unique and special about places, people and cultures. Snapchat Stories provides an ideal platform to help get our creative video content in front of a curious, inspiration-hungry audience.”
(The full list of partners: Sky News, Sky Sports, VICE, Gleam Futures, The Guardian, Culture Trip, Hearst / Cosmopolitan UK, Tastemade, COPA90, Channel 4 [trial], Global, Boiler Room, GRM Daily, JOE.co.uk, Brave Bison, PinkNews and Manchester City.)
While some of these shows will be produced specifically for this Shows launch, they are not, to be clear, Snapchat Originals — the content that Snap launched earlier this month where it is working closely with content producers to build video series that are debuting exclusively on Snapchat. Those will come over time, Saad, said.
“Originals are a great strategy for Snap,” he said. “If and when the time is right to launch originals we’ll do a great job now is not the time.”
Indeed, Snap is taking baby steps with the new content and format. These new shows for now will not have a lot of monetising features wrapped around them at launch.
Saad confirmed that Snap is not co-investing “right now” in their production, and it is not running advertising alongside them. But Shows, he said, “present an opportunity to help us bring commercials to the platform,” which he said would be six-second ads that are not skippable. Snap he said will share revenue with content companies on these but he declined to say what the split would be.
Nor will it be offering merchandising functions. All of these have been major selling points on other platforms that have more established audiences for video content. Facebook’s Instagram has, in fact, been using extra monetising perks as a unique selling point when wooing creators to its platform over YouTube.
For that reason, it’s likely we will see much more of that coming to Snapchat as it tries to grow its business, as a way of attracting more producers, and keeping companies creating content for the longer run rather than running away when the enthusiasm and/or budget of the marketing team runs out.
“We’ve been burning with funding for content, but then the funding runs out and you are left with the team or the classic pivot to video,” noted Alan Strange of Sky. “It’s a wasteland out there.”
To be clear, Strange was referring of the general landscape — not to Sky itself, which he said has a lot of leeway to work on newer platforms like Snapchat as a way to build bridges to new audiences, beyond its current (and strong) core business in TV.
In the US, Snap has already begun allow stories to utilise commerce functions, Saad pointed out. For now that has been centered around the “swipe up” gesture to buy items shown in videos. “There are no plans to introduce that in the UK immediately,” Saad said, although he also added that it will likely appear over time.
“Commerce is an important part,” he said, “and we are always looking at new ways for Snapchatters to access a catalog” of merchandise. The long-term aim, he said, “is to build a mobile wallet that allows a Snapchatter to swipe up and purchase goods using their safely storied details. That’s the world we want to get to, and it’s only a matter of time.”
The longer term trajectory, if Shows follows the success of Discover, are that it will be a big opportunity for Snap potentially. Discover launched in January 2015 with 18 brand partners, and now there are more than 100 partners globally.
So far, the time spent watching Shows on Snapchat globally has more than tripled since the beginning of the year, Snap said, with 21 unique Shows in Discover reaching a monthly active audience of over 10 million viewers globally in Q3.