Can Snapchat survive? There’s only so far sex tapes and stickers can take your social network before you need to offer people another reason to keep booting up the app. Good news for Snapchat: The app just got a huge boost from an established Hollywood player, who’s rolling the dice on a new way of watching TV.
The $100 million deal, across two years, essentially turns Snapchat into a tiny television network. Vertical-format comedies, dramas, documentaries, and news programs, each clocking in at 3-5 minutes and produced by Time Warner’s sprawling media empire, will run on Snapchat, with the two companies splitting the ad revenue. Before you bring it up — yes, this has been a joke for years. And it’s undeniably a bold move. Now, Snapchat faces a fairly intense uphill battle.
Snap’s first earnings report as a public company was a disaster, with reports of slowing user growth dropping the stock by 23% for a brief time. And while getting $100 million from Time Warner is a huge vote of confidence in the social network, this means Snapchat will be attempting what many have tried before — to put an end to the traditional TV network. This feat was most recently attempted by Google with YouTube Red, the company’s supposed response to Netflix and Hulu that was supposed to ride a lack of ads on typical YouTube content and new shows from YouTube’s creators to dominance. Instead, Google is stuck boasting it’s doing the best out of the streaming also-rans.
Snap has what amounts to the same problem. While talent can grow on social networks, the people who are truly ready for prime time tend to be snapped up by, well, sprawling multimedia conglomerates like Time Warner. Look no further than Felicia Day or, love him or hate him, Justin Bieber. Usually what’s left can turn out to be left behind for a reason. While Time Warner is promising to bring in talent like Samantha Bee and Ellen DeGeneres, how exactly that will work, and whether it’s original content or just clips edited from Time Warner’s shows, isn’t clear yet
Similarly, social media’s real luck has been in niche interests. Children’s videos made in Grand Theft Auto, unboxing videos, make-up tutorials, and other content that conventional television just isn’t suited for has been where social media has really taken off. For Snap and Time Warner’s gamble to work, they’re going to have to consider what Snap offers that’s different. Otherwise, they may be stuck with a bad bet.