Snap Execs Explain the Key to a Successful TV Partnership and Their Push Into Scripted Shows

Networks must approach Snapchat as ‘a new format,’ not a place to ‘repurpose’ linear clips

Nick Bell (left) and Sean Mills said Snapchat will be experimenting with scripted series on its platform this year.
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During the past two years, Snap, Inc. has partnered with almost all major TV media companies to create exclusive, original content for the platform. But some of those efforts have been better received than others: last month, CNN decided to end its daily Snapchat news show, The Update, just four months after its launch.

Snap execs told the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour that they are bullish on Snapchat’s news shows despite The Update’s cancellation, and that networks who think of their platform as a new format—and not just a place to repurpose TV clips—are having the most success reaching Snap’s 178 million daily users.

While CNN has “paused” The Update, “news has been a very successful category for us,” said Nick Bell, vp of content for Snap. Stay Tuned, Snapchat’s twice-daily show with NBC News, reached “29 million young people in the U.S. in its first month, and continues to grow, in terms of forming a daily habit among young audiences. So there is definitely a demand for news on the platform, which is something that makes me feel good.”

The key to a successful partnership between Snapchat and a TV network, said Bell, “is people who are really thinking about this as a new format.”

That includes NBC News and Stay Tuned, which is made, written and produced specifically for Snapchat, said Bell. “We’re not taking clips and repurposing them from TV.”

The same approach help The Voice’s Snapchat show receive an Emmy nomination last year. It “was everything that was great and that we all loved about The Voice, but reimagined for Snapchat,” said Bell, adding that Snap’s best TV partnerships are “thinking first and foremost about this as an individual and new show from the ground up. And what does that actually mean, even when it’s using known IP [intellectual property]?”

When networks are devising original content for Snapchat, said Sean Mills, head of original content, “Think of all of your writers’ room, showrunning, producers, all the talent up in the cloud, you use all that talent to make a linear television show. Start from up there to make a Snapchat show. Don’t just try to cut or repurpose some element of the linear show. That’s what [The Voice] did, and I think it was really successful for that reason.”

Bell said Snapchat is attractive for media companies because in the U.S., the platform reaches 47 million people in its core demo of people age 13-24. That’s 9 million more than Facebook and 15 million more than Instagram.

Over the past two years, Snap has teamed with ESPN, Scripps Networks Interactive, Discovery Communications, CBS Interactive, Vice Media, A+E Networks, BBC Worldwide, Turner, Disney-ABC Television Group, Viacom and NBCUniversal to create original Snapchat content.

As its TV partnerships mount, “we’re just at the very beginning. We’re learning alongside of our partners,” said Mills. “We see ourselves as a real complement to television.”

After starting with unscripted shows, Snap will branch further into scripted offerings this year. Last October, the company partnered with NBCUniversal to create a digital content studio for scripted shows, and is also working with the Duplass Brothers, who are working on scripted content for the platform.

“We take this real approach of, we know nothing. Let’s try things and experiment. And I think this will be the year we do a lot of that,” said Mills of the scripted plans. “We’re fascinated by the behaviors of people on Snapchat.”

Mills said the average Snapchat user visits the app 25 times a day. “We think that’s an opportunity for high-frequency, maybe daily, or maybe even more frequent, storytelling,” said Mills. “Short bursts of ‘chapterized’ stories that leave you wanting more.”

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