Snapchat Plans AR-Enabled Original Series, Strikes Content Deals With Disney, NBCUniversal

Snap Originals - Publicity - Split - H 2020

The mobile app has also greenlit projects from Catherine Hardwicke and Anthony Anderson.

After postponing its in-person partner summit earlier this spring, Snap forged ahead with a virtual version of the event on June 11, during which it unfurled several product and content announcements.

The company’s plans include a partnership with meditation firm Headspace, features to make Snapchat easier to navigate, content deals with Disney, ViacomCBS and the NBA, and a slate of augmented reality-powered original series.

“We know this is a difficult and uncertain time, so we’ve rolled out new products and features to support the well-being of Snapchatters, and we want to make a positive difference,” CEO Evan Spiegel said to kick off the Snap Partner Summit keynote. “Close friends are the first line of defense during times of stress, anxiety and depression, so Snapchat has an important role to play.”

Among Snap’s efforts to support its 229 million daily active users is a collaboration with Headspace that will offer the company’s signature guided meditations and mindfulness practices in bite-sized form. These new tools will be integrated directly into conversations between Snapchatters, allowing them to complete exercises with their friends or send positive messages.  

Snap also continues to invest in Snapchat’s Discover platform, where daily time spent watching its mix of news and entertainment programming is up 35 percent year-over-year. Like many digital platforms, Discover has become a go-to place for homebound Americans seeking entertainment during the coronavirus pandemic. To wit, unscripted series Will From Home, in which Will Smith shares his stay-at-home experience with viewers, has been watched by more than 35 million Snapchatters since its launch in April.

Snap operates Discover as a curated home for programming. It said in early June that it would stop promoting President Donald Trump’s account on the platform due to his comments on other platforms that could incite violence. News is core to the platform, with more than 125 million people watching current events content on Snapchat in the last year and 80 million people watching special coronavirus coverage from NBC News, The Guardian and others in the past three months.

To cater to its news-hungry audience, Snapchat is rolling out a new feature called Happening Now in  the U.S. where users can find up-to-date information about what is happening in the world, senior director of content Sean Mills announced during the Partner Summit keynote.

Citing partners like The Washington Post, ESPN and BuzzFeed, Mills said that the new product will “turn updates on the biggest stories into single Snaps — creating a new format designed for the fast and frequent way Snapchatters view news on mobile.”

On Thursday, Snapchat also announced that it has renewed its Discover content deals with ESPN, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, the NBA and the NFL that will keep shows like SportsCenter, Stay Tuned and The Rundown on the platform. Disney has also inked a larger deal with Snapchat that will bring projects like Freeform’s Debate Date to the app.

Snapchat says its offering of more than 60 shows reached an audience of more than 10 million viewers during the first three months of the year. Part of that offering are Snap originals, and the company has added a handful of new projects to the lineup. They include unscripted projects like Coach Kev, a self-help series from Kevin Hart and his Laugh Out Loud shingle; docuseries Road Trippin’, executive produced by Anthony Anderson and starring Rickey Thompson and Denzel Dion; Queen of Stylez, about hairstylist Tokyo Stylez; and Live by the Horns, which follows 22-year-old bull rider Ezekiel Mitchell.

On the scripted side, Snapchat has Frogtown from director Catherine Hardwicke about a skater living in her car who finds a second family in an all-girl crew in East Los Angeles. There’s also esports thriller Action Royale from Portal A and wrestling comedy Total Badass Wrestling from Comedy Bang! Bang! Productions.

In an interview, Mills told THR, “one of the things we think a lot about is, how do we learn from our community, and how does that feed into the show? So a lot of the talent in our shows emerge from our platform.” He points to projects like Road Trippin’ and Queen of Stylez as examples of how Snapchat is working with endemic talent Thompson and Stylez.

Snapchat is also investing in programming that shows off the app’s augmented reality technology. For instance, Fake Up from Mission Control Media, which will feature makeup artists competing to transform their faces into works of art, will offer custom Lenses that Snapchatters can use on their own faces; Move It is an immersive dance series using Snapchat’s AR camera; and the next season of NBCUniversal’s Face Forward will feature an AR Lens that allows viewers to be part of the makeover.

“One of the things we think is a powerful advantage of Discover is that it’s not meant to be a stand-alone platform that exists apart from the overall Snapchat ecosystem,” Mills said. “We want some of the creative capabilities of the camera to find their way into the shows. We’re going to find more ways to make content more social.

Meanwhile, Snapchat has renewed zombie thriller Dead of Night, docuseries Nikita Unfiltered and documentary franchise Vs The World, which will focus its next season on MMA fighter Conor McGregor.

During the keynote, Snapchat also announced a new top-level navigation feature dubbed the Action Bar and a new slate of games for its app including Bitmoji Paint.