Snapchat Content Chief Expects First Scripted Fare This Year, Says "Mobile Is Not a TV Killer"

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Nick Bell

"We want to be friends of media," Nick Bell said at the Edinburgh Television Festival as he outlined the company's mobile-first TV strategy.

Snapchat owner Snap has been looking to reinvent and complement TV for mobile-focused millennials, with vp content Nick Bell leading the charge.

The executive on Wednesday outlined and discussed the company's mobile-first TV strategy on the first day of the Edinburgh TV Festival, saying the company doesn't expect to do away with traditional television and would start doing scripted fare by year's end. 

"Mobile is not a TV killer," said Bell. In fact, mobile is the most complementary thing to TV yet as "there is no better place to watch a great show than on the glowing box on the wall," while watching longform content on a mobile device is not a great experience, he argued.

"We want to be friends of media," said Bell. Snap's focus is on "joining the dots" between TV and mobile, the executive added. Optimizing known properties from content makers is part of that, such as doing Snapchat series that are "complementary" to existing TV shows and reimagining them for the new platform. After all, "Snapchat shows drive tune in to TV," Bell highlighted, mentioning that such series as The Bachelor get audience boosts of around 15 percent from related Snapchat content. 

Snap has thus far not done mobile scripted content, but that is "an interesting next juncture for us," said the exec. "Scripted is expensive, and we want to make sure that we understand that as much as we can before we jump into that world with two feet." But he added that he would "expect to see some scripted stuff before the end of this year."

Asked about what type of show he would love to see, Bell replied: "I love the idea of doing a daily soap like Coronation Street ... or a sitcom like Friends or an animation like Simpsons." He said shows with a long run and characters that people fall in love with could be a good fit.

But the exec also suggested that mobile content must look different from traditional TV. “We see mobile as being fundamentally a new medium," Bell said, mentioning its focus on shorter (meaning three to five minutes in length) content and close-ups over wide shots. "Snapchat is creating a new mobile language."

Asked about Facebook Watch, Bell said the social networking giant had a different strategy and was competing more with the likes of YouTube. "Their roster of programming and format is very different to us," he said. "We are mobile-only."  

Discussing the future of TV networks, Bell said, "We like to work with networks. We actually think this idea of 'network' is going to live on." 

Snap has struck deals with a range of entertainment companies and talents to bring original fare to Snapchat's Discovery platform.

James Corden earlier this year signed up for a daily Snapchat show, set to debut this fall, titled James Corden’s Next James Corden, a fictional reality competition looking for a replacement for the CBS late-night host.

Earlier this summer, Time Warner struck a $100 million content deal with Snap to make shows exclusively for the app. Under the two-year deal, the company will develop and produce up to 10 made-for-Snapchat shows per year. The projects will span genres, including scripted dramas and comedies, and will reach across Time Warner's networks and entertainment properties, meaning that Wonder Woman or Batman could one day end up on Snapchat. 

Other entertainment giants that have struck content deals with Snap include NBCUniversal, A+E Networks, Walt Disney and the BBC. 

Asked about Snap's role in the broader IP world, Bell said, "We see ourselves as part of the equation." He mentioned that such companies as Marvel create overarching IP for printed, theatrical, TV, merchandise and other products. "We see ourselves as being part of that mix," said the exec.

While he didn't provide audience figures for specific shows, Bell said Snapchat "hit shows will reach 15 million people per episode, and that’s kind of in a 24-hour window." 

Discussing the difference between Snapchat and other social media platforms, Bell said users typically have their seven to 15 closest friends on there, meaning a close circle of people they also spend time with in real life. 

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