Arnold Schwarzenegger, Serena Williams to Make Shows for Snapchat (Exclusive)

Courtesy of Snap Inc.

The social app is courting talent through a new creator shows program, which opens its signature vertical video format to influencers like Emma Chamberlain and Rickey Thompson.

Snapchat is expanding its shows format, striking deals with a handful of digital-first and traditional media creators to help them launch projects that take advantage of the app's shortform vertical video format.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, will offer motivational advice on his new show, Rules of Success. Serena Williams, Kevin Hart and such influencers as Emma Chamberlain and Rickey Thompson also have projects in the works.

The shows, which will begin premiering this summer, are part of Snapchat’s effort to create more opportunities for creators on its platform after past complaints from homegrown stars that it hasn’t done as much to help them build an audience as competitors YouTube and Instagram have. "The creator community has been an increasing priority for us," says Sean Mills, senior director of content at Snapchat, adding that shows are a new "opportunity for us to bring creators into a more premium content experience."

Snapchat launched its shows format two years ago through partnerships with media brands like NBC, ABC and A&E. It has since expanded the offering to include Snapchat Originals, but until this point the offering was unavailable to creators. Now, Snapchat is working with the talent to develop formats that highlight their interests. Beginning July 10, Thompson will host a show called Trend or End where he will judge fashion and lifestyle trends. "Snapchat has always been a place where my fans can get to know the real, authentic me," he said in a statement. "Making a show with Snap was a really fun experience, and I'm excited for everyone to see it." 

Additional creators that the company has teamed with include Loren Gray, Baby Ariel, Maddie Ziegler and Keke Palmer. International creators like Norway's GeeohSnap are also part of the program. Digital studios Brat, BBTV and Studio71 are helping some of these creators produce their projects. 

Like other platforms, Snapchat also is seeing value in working with more traditional talent, striking deals with athletes, actors and comedians. “It shows the breadth of what we think this new format can offer,” notes Mills. For someone like Schwarzenegger, Snapchat — which says it reaches 90 percent of all 13- to 24-year-olds — provides exposure to a young audience that isn’t going to theaters or watching linear television at the same rates as previous generations.

The new creator shows will live in the Discover platform alongside projects like NBC News-produced daily show Stay Tuned and reality original Endless Summer, making them accessible to the app’s 190 million daily users. "Creator shows really offer talent on Snapchat the opportunity to make a show that they've always wanted to make and then use that show to reach new audiences," says Jim Shepherd, head of talent partnerships. "Because these shows will go to their subscribers and nonsubscribers alike, many of the people who watch them will be people who are interacting with that creator's content for potentially the first time." 

Snapchat isn't only working with on-camera talent. It has also revealed the first batch of projects from its comedy creator initiative, which will begin streaming this summer. The projects, all of them scripted and designed to give opportunities to up-and-coming writers, performers and directors, include Apocalypse Goals from Olivia DeLaurentis and Sydney Heller, All Dog$ Get Money from Gerald Grissette, Relationship Goals from Ben Waller and The Daily Realness from Skyler Fulton. 

Following the conclusion of the scripted comedy program, Snapchat is placing a call for one-page pitches for its new Animated Comedy Creator Initiative. Executives plan to greenlight up to 10 projects from the submissions. 

Snapchat is unveiling these projects ahead of the VidCon festival in Anaheim where hundreds of digital-centric stars will meet with fans and share their expertise. All of the major tech platforms are expected to announce creator-focused product updates as part of the event and Snapchat is no exception. It is also offering a new feature called Highlights, which will allow people with official accounts on the app to show off a curated collection of permanent photos and videos. Highlights was designed to make it easier for users to see the type of content they can expect from top influencers on the platform, explains Mills. "Those are a big deal for us," he adds. "Now creators will be able to save content to their profile."