Snapchat’s Upcoming Originals Include Docu-Series on Tekashi 6ix9ine, Nikita Dragun

Snapchat Originals - Tekashi 6ix9ine, Nikita Dragun
RSMX/starmaxinc.com/Shutterstock (Tekashi 6ix9ine); MediaPunch/Shutterstock (Nikita Dragun)

Snap continues to plow money into original shows for Snapchat, which it says draws audiences of millions — and millions of repeat viewers — among its millennial and Gen Z user base.

On Tuesday, the mobile messaging and media company announced a slate of eight new Snap Originals. Those include documentary series on controversial rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine (from Complex Networks) and transgender beauty icon Nikita Dragun (Sirens Media) as well as “Everything’s Fine,” a scripted comedy about a bipolar college student from Paul Feig’s Powderkeg that features music by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz. The shows will begin airing this fall on Snapchat’s Discover page.

Snap also announced renewals of three serialized originals for second seasons: “Bringing Up Bhabie,” a docu-series about rapper Bhad Bhabie from Invent TV (premiering winter 2020); scripted drama “Two Sides” from Whistle’s New Form (spring 2020); and scripted comedy “Kappa Crypto” from Indigo Development and Entertainment Arts, Snap’s joint venture studio with NBCUniversal (spring 2020).

In addition, Snapchat Original “The Dead Girls Detective Agency,” based on the YA novel of the same name, returns this fall for Season 4. The series is produced by Indigo Development and Entertainment Arts, Insurrection Media and Keshet Studios.

With the new slate, Snapchat is delving into new formats it hasn’t tried before, said Sean Mills, Snap’s head of content. The new series span a range of genres, including character-driven docu-series, unscripted shows, and serialized scripted dramas, thrillers, and comedies.

“While we have been doing this for some time, we’re still in an experimental phase and trying things for the first time,” he said.

As part of its development process, Snap gleans info about the personalities and topics that are most interesting to Snapchatters by analyzing media consumption on its Discover platform, Mills said. For example, the company greenlit scripted basketball series “Players” after seeing the popularity of Overtime’s “Hype School” with highlights of high-school hoops.

Mills declined to say whether Snap’s investment in original programming is profitable. “We believe this is really valuable investment in our business — we think about our content business as part of the holistic engagement on Snapchat,” he said.

Over the past year, the time spent watching Snapchat Shows has more than tripled and the total daily time spent by users watching Discover increased by over 60% and the number of daily viewers has grown by 35%, according to the company. (Snap isn’t releasing actual overall viewership numbers.) In the U.S., Snapchat claims to reach 90% of all 13-24 year-olds and 75% of all 13-34 year-olds.

“People come to a Show page with great intention,” Mills said. “It’s a stronger relationship with the show than if they were mindlessly scrolling down a feed.”

Budgets for Snap Originals productions vary but they can “exceed what you see in cable,” said Mills. About half of the company’s originals are developed from incoming project pitches, but Mills said it’s looking for bespoke programming that is designed for Snapchat’s mobile, short-form formats: “We’re not shopping off the rack.”

More details on Snap’s new originals slate:

  • “Tekashi69 VS The World” (Complex): Docu-series traces the rise and fall of Tekashi 6ix9ine (real name: Daniel Hernandez) from his days growing up in Brooklyn, through his chart-topping career and star-studded collaborations — to the rapper’s arrest on racketeering, weapons and drugs charges, and his plea deal on nine felony counts. Premiering this fall, it’s the first installment in Snap’s new “VS The World” franchise covering big names in hip hop, sports, and entertainment.
  • “Nikita Unfiltered” (Sirens Media): YouTube influencer and transgender beauty mogul Nikita Dragun reveals a vulnerable new side to herself that her fans haven’t yet seen as she starts to date as a woman for the first time. Premieres winter 2020.
  • “The Honeybeez” (Leftfield Pictures): The Honeybeez, Alabama State’s plus-size dance squad, is here to prove that dance is for everyone. The dancers let the haters be their motivators as they showcase their talents on the biggest collegiate stages. Premieres winter 2020.
  • “Driven” (MGM’s Big Fish Entertainment): This entourage of young entrepreneurs at PTG365 deliver flashy, custom cars to their high roller clients using nothing but their phones and a whole lot of hustle. The high end, exotic car industry will never be the same. Docuseries premieres Winter 2020.
  • “Mind Yourself” (Barcroft Studios): In this unscripted anthology series, each episode paints an intimate portrait of a young person suffering or recovering from a mental health issue, from OCD and body dysmorphia to depression and PTSD. Premieres winter 2020.
  • “Everything’s Fine” (Powderkeg): Gemma is a college junior with big plans to kill it in the music industry while coping with a brand-new bipolar diagnosis in this scripted comedy with an unflinching point of view on what it takes to manage a mental health condition while striving to be an overachiever. Premieres spring 2020; working title.
  • “Players” (Loud Labs Media and One Push): Scripted series follows Nash Brooks, son of famed NBA player Oscar Brooks and a rising star himself, who relocates from Indiana to L.A. when his dad is traded. No longer a big fish in a small pond, he has to prove his worth at a fancy West L.A. private school where he’s not even guaranteed a starting spot on the basketball team. Premieres fall 2019.
  • “Save Me” (Loud Labs Media and One Push): In this scripted thriller, isolated home-schooler Jason discovers that his online classmate and crush goes missing — and takes it upon himself to find and save her. But when his search leads him to an off-the-grid “conscious community” that promotes human connection over digital devices, Jason’s character is tested in real life. Premieres winter 2020.

On the advertising front, Snap is selling six-second, non-skippable commercials for the premium shows. Snap recently announced new video ad features for advertisers, including the ability to add swipe-up actions on commercials. In Snap Ads, advertisers can now optimize for 15-second video views and the duration of skippable Snap Ads is increasing to a maximum of three minutes.

In addition, Snap is leveraging the augmented reality (AR) features of the Snapchat app to promote its originals. The company currently has two AR-enabled billboards on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles: One lets fans of the “The Dead Girls Detective Agency” scan the Snapcode on the billboard to watch the new trailer for season 4, and the other gives Snapchatters a sneak peek at zombie-invasion thriller “Dead of Night,” currently airing on Snapchat.

Other stats Snap provided to bolster its case that its originals strategy is resonating (note that these stats are reported by the company and unverified by third parties):

  • In its first 24 hours, the premiere episode of “Bringing Up Bhabie” drew over 10 million unique viewers in February 2019.
  • “Endless Summer,” Snapchat’s first reality series, starring teen YouTube creator Summer Mckeen and produced by Bunim-Murray Productions, reached over 28 million unique viewers in its first season, and more than 90% of viewers who completed the first season went on to watch season two in its first month.
  • For “The Dead Girls Detective Agency,” 80% of viewers who completed season 2 went on to watch season 3 (which premiered in August) and 55% of viewers who completed the first episode of season 3 went on to watch the entire season.
  • “Deep Creek” reached over 18 million unique viewers in its first season.
  • Of the audience for ESPN’s daily “SportsCenter on Snapchat,” more than 60% watches at least three days per week.
  • More than a third of NBC News’ “Stay Tuned” Snapchat audience watches five or more days per week.