Snapchat Goes Hollywood: It's "the Next Step," Says Analyst

Noah Webb
Evan Spiegel

The disappearing messaging app has made a move into original content with a comedy starring the daughters of Steven Spielberg and John Goldwyn.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Blink and you just might miss the next hit digital series.

Disappearing messaging app Snapchat has made a move into original content with Literally Can't Even, a comedy starring Sasha Spielberg, 24, and Emily Goldwyn, 26, the writing partner daughters of Steven Spielberg and producer John Goldwyn.

The weekly series can be found on the Snap Channel on Discover, a curated media platform Snapchat introduced Jan. 27 with partners including ESPN, CNN and Comedy Central. McDonald's, BMW and Universal Pictures are among the brands already advertising on Discover, whose channels refresh each day.

The push into professionally produced content provides Snapchat with a way to monetize its business, which was built on messages that disappear after 10 seconds. "Snapchat is driving consistent, daily engagement in a way that's increasingly difficult on other media platforms," says BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield. "Rather than just hosting other people's content, distributing your own is the next step."

It's an assertive move for the Evan Spiegel-helmed startup to enter the content business when social-networking giants Facebook (which tried to buy Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013) and Twitter have shied away from labeling themselves as media companies. But Rylee Ebsen, Snapchat's director of media production and the director of Literally Can't Even, explains that Snapchat "wanted to have a seat at the table" alongside its media partners.

Creatives also are flocking to the ephemeral medium. Funny or Die has launched a weekly news roundup on Snap Channel and Madonna premiered the music video for single "Living for Love" there.

The appeal, says Neil Carty, vp at advisory firm MediaLink, is being an early adopter of a new platform on the rise among young, influential audiences: "Snapchat knows its audience better than anyone."