Sky, The Guardian and Vice are betting big on Snapchat's TV-style shows with unskippable ads

A bulked up TV proposition could help set Snap apart from its rivals / Snap

Channel 4, The Guardian, Sky News and Vice are among a slew of UK media brands readying original and reworked programming for Snapchat’s vertical TV-style offering, ‘Shows’. They claim the move that will give advertisers more opportunities to buy unskippable ads against premium content within Snap's walls.

Shows first launched in the US two years ago with a focus on getting publishers and broadcasters to create longer, episodic, content for Snapchat’s Discover section.

Until now, the app's UK users have only been able to watch to shows coming out of the US. But Snap has now added 17 UK content partners to the roster, expanding the local content on offer.

Along with traditional broadcasters, digital publishers like Joe and Boiler Room, sports giant Manchester City and Dentsu-backed influencer network Gleam Futures are among the companies to have invested into the UK-specific offering.

Rami Saad, head of international content partnerships at Snap said that in the US time spent in Shows had “more than tripled” since the beginning of 2018. Though he didn’t give a specific figure, he added that in the UK, Snapchat's US shows have already garnered an “addressable reach” of five million people.

Globally, Snap claims the 21 US shows airing in Discover reached 10 million viewers in the third quarter of 2018.

“This is a clear signal that this content format is one users are interested in,” Saad added.

The 25 UK shows launching on Snapchat will comprise a mix of original and repurposed content. It's not commissioned, or funded, by Snap but by the publishers themselves.

Vice is launching five series in total including its long-running Life Hacks Oobah Butler (which sees the title’s rogue reporter tell the stories behind his infamous pranks). At the same time, it’s also launching an original programme called I-D Explains focused on women’s issues and culture.

The Guardian, meanwhile, will bring its Instagram Stories series Fake or Real, which challenges viewers on their preconceptions about current news to Snap. Sky Sports and Boiler Room are also reworking existing shows, as is Sky News with a vertical version of documentary series Hotspots.

While Shows expand the selection of UK content available on Snapchat Discover, the offering is distinct to the short, snappy Stories publishers create for their Discover channels. Snapchat recently made it easier to find shows with a redesign that gives each series a dedicated profile page in Discover.

The announcement comes amid reports that cracks are starting to show in ephemeral Discover Stories model.

It's been reported that Condé Nast US, which was one of the first publishers to launch on Discover was "discontinuing its Snapchat channels for Vogue, Wired and GQ brands, and letting go of employees who were brought in to produce them."

The company declined to comment but sources close to the matter suggested that, despite the cutbacks, the media owner will continue to heavily invest its Teen Vogue and Self channels and will remain a partner to Snap for tentpole events like the Met Gala and Oscars.

It will also continue to run its own shows on Discover in the US – a move that implies Condé US is looking to diversify its output on Snap rather than pull away from it entirely.

So what’s in it for advertisers?

As it races towards the goal of profitability by 2019, the addition of more UK shows will see Snapchat offer brands the chance to buy ‘commercials’ – the 100% in-view, unskippable six-second ad format it started testing on US shows back in May.

Snapchat shows are an average five minutes in length, usually have a clear narrative, and are “hyper-visual with motion graphics, split screens, and quick cuts”. Saad described it as an intimate, authentic “best friend”-esque environment and stressed that, given the premium content ads run against, it's a brand-safe buy.

Commercials can be bought programmatically with a variety of targeting, measurement and pricing options.

Revenues will be split between Snapchat and publishers, but the company declined to reveal the exact ratio it’s split by.

Snap's ‘future of TV’ proposition faces increasing competition from platforms like Facebook Watch, which went global earlier this year after hitting 50 million users in the US.

Instagram TV (IGTV) is also likely to be a contender for the ad dollars Snap wants to scoop up, but although brands have been publishing content on IGTV it is lagging behind Snap and Facebook in opening the floodgates to monetisation.

However, a bulked up TV proposition could help set Snap apart from its rivals and speed up its sluggish user growth; making it more attractive to both advertisers and investors.

In the most recent quarter, it lost two million users slumping to 186 million in the midst of reverberations from a wildly unpopular redesign and development issues with its Android app.

Opening up to influencers?

Baked into Snap’s announcement was an indication that it’s softening its approach to influencers on the platform – something the business been notoriously slow to adapt to and move that could help it take on YouTube and IGTV.

Gleam Features, the talent management agency which represents social media stars like Tanya Burr and Pixiwoo, is launching two influencer-fronted shows on Snapchat including one called Marcus Moans, fronted by Marcus Butler.

“We really want to lean into that community… for the longest time we haven’t,” said Saad, adding that Snap’s intent with creators was to have them build “standalone show brands” within its walls.

Lucy Lendrem, head of talent for Gleam in the UK, said she had “no idea” if creators would make any money on the platform, but for its talent, the potential was “interesting and exciting beyond a revenue perspective”.

“It wasn’t a hard sell for us when we asked [the talent] if they wanted to do it,” she added, saying it was the access to Snap’s – chiefly millennial – audience that was the real draw.

Saad explained that in the US, Snap was letting a handful of creators add a ‘swipe up’’ capability on their stories that would allow them to make revenues via e-commerce and affiliate links, but there were “no immediate plans” to launch this in the UK.

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