A view from Steve Ackerman

Why is Snapchat investing in 'old world' media content?

Social media platforms are imitating more established commercial media by turning to entertainment, music and sports formats to grow and keep their audiences, writes Steve...

Facebook streamed last week’s Wayne Rooney testimonial match between Manchester United and Everton. The latest in a line of live sport and entertainment events to appear on the platform.

And now Snapchat has announced a partnership with NBC Universal to bring shows such as the US version of The Voice to the messaging app.

The key feature of the Snapchat/NBC deal is that Snapchat, in keeping with the needs of its audience, will host bespoke mini, versions ahead of the broadcast of selected programmes.

In the case of The Voice, this will be in the format of a five-programme series, The Voice on Snapchat, which will tease the main show and provide quick hits of entertainment to a new audience.

Interestingly, as part of the deal, NBC will sell advertising and sponsorship around its content on Snapchat.

It’s no surprise that the likes of Snapchat are acquiring exclusive content to feed their audiences and, for the broadcaster, the benefits are tangible. They are able to provide different types of content from their stable of shows to new people, bringing life to brands in new places.

They know younger audiences inhabit these platforms and reaching them offers the opportunity to use that content as a means of driving back users to the long-form broadcast of the show.

This move shows a strong understanding from NBCU of audiences and how they consume content in different ways depending on the platform. It’s interesting, though, that US broadcasters are leading the way in this attempt to embrace audiences on social channels.

Most prominently, James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke clips from The Late Late Show have found a life outside broadcast media through sharing on social channels.

This raises the question, "where are the equivalents from UK entertainment and sports brands?"

Aside from ITV’s I’m a Celebrity, Simon Cowell shows and Somethin’ Else’s work for the Brit Awards, it’s hard to think of similar content examples from the UK TV market that have managed to build a new life on social channels with bespoke original content tailored for those channels (rather than clips from the original show).

The move from Snapchat signals a hunger from social media platforms for the high audience rating content that traditional TV excels at.

Interestingly, perhaps the most significant element is the commercial implications. The big question raised by the Snapchat content deal relates to Snapchat itself and why it’s employing a traditional revenue model of signing up exclusive content and then selling advertising on the back of it.

The detail of the deal perhaps indicates that its plans for more progressive, specific advertising formats have yet to be announced but the signs are that Snapchat will require NBC Universal’s sales team to develop and sell a range of mobile and sponsorship options.

This is good news for NBC, which will have the opportunity of applying its programme-making and sales expertise to a social audience of 150 million-plus.

The partnership also provides an indication that relatively young media platforms such as Snapchat value the old school commercial understanding of broadcasting when it comes to monetising video content.

This should encourage established UK broadcasters that they have similar opportunities to monetise social media audiences that are hungry for the content the broadcasters own. 

Soothsayers are often quick to dismiss traditional TV as a fading commercial model, but what the US deal shows is that the boundaries continue to blur between old and new platforms in terms of how content is redistributed and, most crucially, how that content in monetised.

While the new kids on the block of social media can point to staggering growth in numbers, for the growth of original content they still have a lot to learn from those older heads who have made content their business – the TV broadcasters.