Q&A: Viacom Is Betting on Snapchat to Stay Relevant With Millennials

Launches new Discover channels and ad program

Viacom today signed a global deal with Snapchat that allows the broadcast network to sell ads and crank out daily content within the red-hot app.

The partnership entails a revenue-sharing agreement, per The Wall Street Journal, that lets both companies keep a portion of the advertising money. Viacom has also launched two new global Discover channels on Snapchat: MTV and Comedy Central. Before today, MTV's Discover hub was only available internationally and Comedy Central's was only available to U.S. users.

In addition to selling ads within Discover, Viacom's sales teams will pitch the app's Live Story promos to brands. Live Stories are curated strings of photos and videos collected at events like the Super Bowl and awards shows.

The "multiyear" deal underscores Snapchat's rise as a video platform with scale comparable to that of TV, at least in terms of reaching millennials and centennials. It's also the latest step in Viacom's aggressive push into digital and ongoing effort to stay relevant as cord cutting becomes more prevalent.

Adweek spoke with Jeff Lucas, head of sales at Viacom, about the partnership and how it affects marketers.

Adweek: What was the rationale behind the Snapchat partnership?
Jeff Lucas: If you take a look at the two companies and what we do, we go well together in terms of audience and content. We're the largest broadcaster to the millennial and centennial generation, and Snapchat is, on mobile, the No. 1 broadcaster to the millennial generation.

When you put that platform and content with it, it's great for storytelling, targeting [and] measurement.

This isn't the first time that you've worked with Snapchat though, right?
No, we started working with Snapchat very early on and saw [how] their value popped with our audience.

They value our expertise in content creation and marketing, and we value their expertise in reaching a very hard-to-reach audience.

In addition to selling the ads, is Viacom involved with the creative?
I think that the process needs to be worked out. We're already in business with Snapchat, so we have a process for clearing all creative with them. And that will continue.

So, Snapchat is still heavily involved then?
We have a large sales force; Snapchat has their own sales force. We're working together, and we'll coordinate. But just remember—they have their own sales force, their whole process.

Currently, we have a system in place with the amount of Snapchat [inventory] that we sell, but as we increase that amount, we'll have to develop additional systems.

We want to deliver more value for our audience. I think part of doing that is getting Comedy Central and MTV on the platform—the two leading millennial brands.

In addition to Discover, part of the deal also includes selling Live Stories. What's included in that?
We sell the inventory on our two Discovery channels and then add onto that. We have our tent-pole events, which will be featured in Live Stories that we can sell.

There will be certain times when we also work with Snapchat owned-and-operated inventory.