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Snapchat to Move Into Scripted Content by Year’s End

Snapchat’s head of content Nick Bell said Wednesday that the messaging service was likely to push into scripted content through its Snapchat Shows by year’s end.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Bell insisted that the company was not helping to drive a stake into the heart of traditional broadcasters. Instead, it can help bolster them, he said.

“Mobile is the most complementary thing to TV that has been around,” Bell said, adding that Snapchat was not a “TV killer.” “We’re really capturing the audience who are not probably consuming TV at the same rate and pace of engagement that they once were.”

The Snapchat Show offshoot to “The Voice” helped boost the NBC program’s viewer numbers, as did its companion show to ABC’s “The Bachelor,” Bell said. Holding up his mobile phone, he declared that his goal was to turn the device into “the remote control for your TV consumption.”

That said, the messaging service is pushing ahead with its own original content. Although it has been hesitant to move into scripted content, given the expense, Bell said he expected Snapchat to feature some scripted content by year’s end.  It’s “an interesting next juncture” for the company, he said.

Even then, the scripted fare will conform to Snapchat’s view that long-form content isn’t suited to mobile, which Bell sees as “fundamentally a new medium.” The optimum length for Snapchat videos remains three to five minutes.

The company has inked a number of deals with established entertainment players, including partnerships with TV networks NBC and ABC, the BBC, Vice Media, and a $100-million agreement announced in June with Time Warner, which has committed to producing up to 10 new Snapchat Shows. But in spite of hitting a high of 173 million daily Snapchat users, including 4 million added in North America in the last quarter, parent company Snap Inc. reported disappointing earnings earlier this month.

Bell said that, at present, the company is relying on its partners to finance video content rather than commissioning on its own; without releasing figures, he said several of the current crop of shows were profitable.

“We’re still in early stages, and that certainly bodes well for the future,” he said.

Beyond complementing television, Snapchat could also fit into the movie ecosystem, particularly with regard to studio tentpoles and franchises, Bell said. Original morsels on Snapchat could help keep interest alive in a franchise, a way to fill in the gap between installments.

Bell said the key to successful Snapchat videos is that they work as standalone content, albeit in support of an established entertainment property such as “The Voice.” A “behind the scenes”-type video doesn’t cut it, he said.

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