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Disney-ABC to Produce Snapchat Original Series, Starting With ‘The Bachelor’ Aftershow (EXCLUSIVE)

Snapchat has pulled Disney-ABC Television Group into its expanding original programming orbit, with the parties setting a pact under which the Mouse House’s TV division will produce several original shows for the social service.

First in the Snapchat queue under the deal: a watch-party aftershow for ABC’s “The Bachelor” to debut Jan. 3 — the morning after the premiere of the 21st season of the reality-dating franchise, starring Nick Viall (pictured above), a two-time runner-up on “The Bachelorette.” Episodes of “Watch Party: The Bachelor” are expected to run 3-5 minutes each and will be available for 24 hours on Snapchat. The series will appear in the Snapchat Discover section, with the season finale to be produced as a Snapchat Live Story.

Over the next few months, Disney-ABC Television plans to roll out several additional episodic shows on Snapchat, but execs declined to provide details on what’s coming up. The deal covers distribution to Snapchat users in the U.S.

“We’ve been exploring ways to tell stories on mobile, and Snapchat was a very exciting canvas for us to work on,” said John Frelinghuysen, executive VP of digital media strategy and business development for Disney-ABC TV.

Snap Inc. has already run original shows from NBCUniversal under a multiyear pact, including skits from “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” a series for “The Voice,” and a weekly talk show from E!. In addition, ESPN and the NFL also produce original shows exclusively for Snapchat.

For ABC, the deal with Snapchat — which claims to have more than 150 million daily users — is a straight-up play to reach younger audiences, which are increasingly tuning out TV. The network is angling to spur interest in shows like “The Bachelor” as well as make money from ads sold against original content pumped into Snapchat’s video engine.

As part of the deal, Disney-ABC will develop and sell advertising packages incorporating Snapchat’s 10-second full-screen video ads. Frelinghuysen said the Snapchat inventory may be sold in a bundle with linear TV ad buys, or separately to digital-only sponsors.

“Disney-ABC have rewritten the rules for how to develop daring, fun and adventurous series for TV, mastering formats ranging from scripted to reality and from drama to comedy,” said Nick Bell, Snap Inc.’s VP of content. “They will be a vital partner as we continue to expand our lineup of shows on Discover.”

“Watch Party: The Bachelor” will feature “celebrities, comedians, super fans and infamous Bachelors and Bachelorettes,” according to Disney-ABC and Snapchat. A rotating cast of commentators will convene each week to watch and dish on the previous night’s installment in a living-room setting. The 11-episode series is being produced by ABC in collaboration with Warner Horizon Television and Snapchat.

The power of Snapchat, with its swipe-happy user base, is undeniable. The service can generate millions of video views in just a few hours, as ABC’s Live Story for the 2016 Oscars did. Snap Inc. is now in the process of adding original scripted and unscripted shows from other networks and studios to Discover.

For the near term, Snap is focused on bringing out a small number of high-profile original shows that can become tentpoles. “We believe in scarcity,” said Sean Mills, head of original content. “If you curate a select amount of premium content, you can bring a huge audience to that.”

Mills describes Snapchat Shows as character- or format-driven single-narrative video productions. The initiative represents the third pillar of Snap Inc.’s media strategy. Snapchat Discover, first launched in January 2015, to date has centered on magazine-like Editions, comprising photos, animations, text, video and other content produced by outside editorial partners including BuzzFeed, CNN and ESPN. Then there are Live Stories, which are collections of Snaps submitted by users in specific locations that are edited and curated by Snapchat producers.

Snapchat has developed best practices for how to produce original shows for the platform, after testing concepts with political show “Good Luck America,” produced by Snapchat head of news Peter Hamby, which ran during the 2016 election season.

For example, all Snapchat Shows are produced with vertical video, because completion rates for that orientation are nine times what they are for horizontal video, according to Mills. Snapchat also generally breaks up shows into 20-second chapters, allowing users to flip forward and backward through the videos. The originals team also has learned that shooting a hosted show with someone seated across a desk doesn’t work; instead, the shot has to be pulled in close, as if the subject were creating a selfie Snap.

“We’ve been trying to be thoughtful about how it should work,” said Mills. “How long should an episode of mobile television be? What are the rules of storytelling in that environment? You have a viewer with a thumb hovering over the screen essentially, so you have to grab them right away.”

ABC, in a separate digital promo for the next season of “The Bachelor,” this week launched a fantasy league for “The Bachelor” in partnership with ESPN, with a sweepstakes awarding prizes to the players who make the most accurate predictions as season 21 unfolds.

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