Snapchat Expands Deals With N.F.L., Disney and Others


LOS ANGELES — Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League are expanding deals to supply Snapchat with customized short-form content, underscoring the platform’s renewed momentum.

Snap, which makes the ephemeral-messaging app, unveiled the multiyear deals on Thursday, along with a spate of original series and a breaking news feature called “Happening Now” that counts The Washington Post, Bloomberg and ESPN as partners. Maggie Suniewick, president of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, said in an email that Snapchat was “a brand-safe environment where we can reach millions of new viewers.”

Snapchat’s reassertion of itself in entertainment and news comes as one would-be competitor, Quibi, an app offering short-form shows designed for viewing on phones, attempts to regroup after a disastrous arrival in April. Quibi fell out of the list of the 50 most downloaded free iPhone apps in the United States a week after it went live. On Thursday it ranked No. 285.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood mogul behind Quibi, blamed the coronavirus pandemic for its rough start, but people have been spending more time on platforms like Snapchat and TikTok, an app for making and sharing short videos, since the shutdowns began. Snap said in April that daily active users had grown more rapidly than expected, reaching 229 million people. To compare, Twitter had about 166 million. Snap said time spent watching its original shows had doubled in recent months compared to a year earlier.

Snap sells six-second, non-skippable ads for its originals. The company, based in Santa Monica, Calif., introduced scripted programs and docuseries in 2018 and unscripted shows in 2016. “The Rundown,” an E! News series, just celebrated its 500th episode. Episodes for scripted shows are typically five minutes long, with eight to 12 episodes in a season.

Entertainment and news programming is still a small part of Snap’s business, however. “It’s not enough to move the needle — yet,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

Snap’s programming emphasizes inclusion and new storytelling tools, notably augmented reality lenses. A continuing unscripted series, “Nikita Unfiltered,” stars the transgender beauty influencer Nikita Dragun. Shows announced on Thursday include “Coach Kev,” billed as a daily dose of “positivity and wisdom” from the comedian Kevin Hart, and “Life by the Horns,” a docuseries about Ezekiel Mitchell, an African-American bull rider.

Scripted shows coming to Snapchat include “Frogtown,” about an all-female skate crew (directed by Catherine Hardwicke of “Twilight” fame), and “Action Royale,” about a teenager who starts an underground e-sports gambling ring.

“We’re getting better and better at programming,” Sean Mills, Snap’s content chief, said by phone. “It’s not about episode length. It’s not about aspect ratio. It’s not about how many stars you have. It’s how you tell the story and how well you know your audience.”

Mr. Mills declined to give many specifics about the company deals that Snap unveiled, including how long “multiyear” meant. (“At least two,” he said.) All the deals call for expanded programming commitments. For instance, Disney has long had an agreement with Snap that covers exclusive content from ESPN; the new deal also covers Disney-owned properties like ABC and Freeform, a cable channel aimed at young adults, as well as unspecified Disney franchises.

Under the expanded N.F.L. deal, the league will triple the number of what it calls “near real-time” highlights shows on Snapchat. The league will also continue to supply Snapchat with other video programming year-round and develop augmented-reality lenses and filters tied to specific teams and events, including the Super Bowl.

Blake Stuchin, the league’s vice president for digital media business development, said that 70 percent of Snapchat users that view N.F.L. content are under the age of 25. Courting younger fans is crucial for the league’s future. Snapchat reaches more 13 to 34 year olds in the United States than Facebook or Instagram, according to public data from the companies.

“We want to meet our fans where they already are, whether that means making sure they know there is a game coming up or telling them more about a favorite player or giving them creative tools to express themselves,” Mr. Stuchin said.


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