Snap today announced a slate of self-produced programming. The dozen shows, which will be part of a new program called Snap Originals, include a mix of scripted series and reality shows that will premiere over the next several months on the Snapchat Discover tab. The shows are all shot vertically, and episodes average five minutes in length, said Sean Mills, head of original content at Snap. New episodes will premiere daily, and you can tell the app to notify you when a fresh installment is available.
In an interview at the company’s offices in Santa Monica, California, Mills said Snap’s original shows are engineered to succeed in the difficult environment of mobile video where viewers are never more than a thumb-tap away from abandoning a show. Snap Originals are designed to hook viewers within seconds and keep them stimulated with flashy visuals, he said.
“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,” Mills said.
The Snapchat Originals will appear in Discover, which will soon have a dedicated section for Shows, as well as new permanent Show Profile pages available through Snapchat search where users can sign up for push notifications when each episode is released. Reaction lenses make it easy to post about a Show’s biggest moments. And with new Show Portal lenses, users can stick an augmented reality doorway in their Snaps that they can walk through to explore a scene from the Show and then tap to watch that Show, allowing them to spread virally.
“Time spent watching shows on Snapchat has tripled this year alone” Snap’s VP of Original Content Sean Mills tells me. The stats on Snap’s previous 60 shows from CBS, Viacom, the NFL and others since the project launched two years ago made it clear there was an opportunity to double down, especially as original mobile programming efforts like Facebook Watch and Instagram’s IGTV have stumbled. NBC News’ twice daily show Stay Tuned has doubled viewership in the past year to 5 million unique viewers per day, over half of which watch at least 3 days per week, while SportsCenter’s show reaches 17 million monthly viewers.
Portal lenses use augmented reality to let viewers step inside a scene of an Original show and send the experience to friends. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel telegraphed today’s announcement in a leaked memo, noting that the app sees “over 18 Shows reaching monthly audiences of over 10M unique viewers. 12 of which are Original productions” and that “We are also working to identify content that is performing well outside of Snapchat so that we can bring it into Discover.”
With Snap Originals, Snapchat will also have to compete with other players like Netflix and Hulu, which also develop original content in addition to traditional TV and other digital platforms. But users can also flip the camera to augment the world around them and see digital objects on top of the real world.
The company’s biggest challenge is capturing consumers’ attention.
“People have a finite amount of time for watching programming and there are so many places to watch scripted shows now,” said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at research firm eMarketer.
“Snapchat is one of the most creative and unique communications mediums, and there’s a lot of benefit to that,” said Williamson. “If it keeps executing and making smart moves, then things will turn around for the company.”