It began ever so subtly, three years ago. Snapchat, the messaging app that dominates young users’ social media video viewing, launched a service called Shows. It comprised short videos made for mobile phones by news services like NBC and Condé Nast Entertainment. Stay Tuned, a daily news show from NBC, drew an audience of 5 million viewers aged from 13 to 24. Slowly, a new reality dawned at Snap Inc, the company that has built up a $16-billion dollar valuation on the back of its Snapchat property.
As Snapchat expanded its third party content offerings, with anything from National Geographic to sports and gossip, the seeds were sewn for its own original programming. It wasn’t exactly a bandwagon. Netflix launched its Originals back in 2013, and Amazon Prime followed a year later.
Snapchat entered the game six months ago, with a 12-episode reality show called Endless Summer. It follows the life of 19-yearold Summer Mckeen, a YouTube star since the age of 14, and proved a massive hit with Snapchat users.
However, it was just one of a dozen Snapchat Originals launched in October 2018. The slate included a fun supernatural series called Dead Girls Detective Agency, and a college comedy called Co-Ed. More than 40% of users who completed the first episode of The Dead Girls Detective Agency went on to watch the entire first season, and Endless Summer eventually reached more than 28 million unique viewers.
Snap announced last week that loth shows had been renewed for a second season later this year. But that was almost a side story to the bigger news: a massive new slate of Snap Originals, with both scripted shows and “docuseries”. At the same time, Snap announced a range of new augmented reality and camera features, as if to underline the sense of a business that is about to make a quantum leap into the future.
In response, analysts forecast share price increases of as much as 50% in the next 12 months, on top of the 100% growth it has shown this year. Now, the public will also see what the excitement is all about.
From May this year, the new Snap Originals will be available globally on Snapchat’s Discover page, which Snap hopes to turn into one of the industry’s leading made-for-mobile video platforms.
The shows will include serialised scripted dramas and comedies, character-driven docuseries, and unscripted social commentary in an attempt “to continue to define mobile storytelling”, it says.
Snap’s new slate includes:
- Two Sides – (New Form) – A young couple navigates a breakup in this series told from both characters’ points of view at the same time. Scripted series launches May 2019.
- Commanders – (Dakota Pictures) – In this comedy, two teenage outcasts discover a mysterious code within a retro computer that can alter real life. When they decide to use this newfound power to disrupt the cliché social structure, their high school will never be the same. Scripted series launches June 2019.
- Untitled BuzzFeed Daily Show – (BuzzFeed) – BuzzFeed’s daily afternoon show brings viewers celebrity, entertainment, and OMG moments blowing up the internet. Launches shortly.
- Sneakerheads – (Indigo Development and Entertainment Arts and EMJAG Productions) – A comedy that follows the misadventures of three college freshmen as they navigate the crazy, shady, mercurial world of Los Angeles sneaker culture. Scripted series launches June 2019.
- While Black – (Indigo Development and Entertainment Arts and Main Event Media) – Author, filmmaker, recording artist, and educator MK Asante explores racially charged social issues through candid conversations. Unscripted social commentary launches mid 2019.
- Can’t Talk Now – (New Form) – A teen soap that takes place inside the phones of a group of high school freshman BFFs as drama unfolds across group texts, video chats, and social media. Scripted series launches mid 2019.
- Compton Dreams – (October Films) – The highs and lows of three up-and-coming artists from Compton as they strive to become the next big name in hip-hop. Docuseries launches mid 2019.
- Denton’s Death Date – (Insurrection Media) – This comedy, set in a world where everyone knows the exact day they are going to die, centres on Denton Little, a high school junior whose death date is only a week away. Denton finally starts living his life to the fullest when a series of strange events unfold that may be the key to avoiding his fate. Based on the novel by Lance Rubin. Scripted series launches September 2019
- tranded with Sam and Colby – (Bunim/Murray Productions) – A pair of influencers film from a haunted location and what starts as something fun quickly takes a terrifying turn. Docuseries launches in late 2019.
- Dead of Night – (Bazelevs in association with Hooked) – Armed with only her phone, a teenage girl must escape a quarantined city full of zombies. Shot in ScreenLife, exclusively from the point of view of the smartphone screen. Based on a Hooked story. Produced by Bazelevs in association with Hooked. Scripted series launches October 2019.
There is one fundamental difference in all these movies, compared to Originals from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Showmax: all are made specifically for viewing on a smartphone, meaning they are shot in vertical format, as opposed to the landscape mode of regular movies. It is no exaggeration, then, to say that movies will never be the same again.
Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee