Snapchat unveils new original shows to lure back users

Snapchat is hoping its new original content will help bring back former users and appeal to existing ones.

Snapchat is hoping its new original content will help bring back former users and appeal to existing ones.

On Wednesday, the company unveiled its first collection of Snap Originals, including scripted programs and docuseries produced exclusively for the platform. The shows will include drama, mystery, horror and comedy.

The company is partnering with popular social media stars such as Summer McKeen and Dylan Jordan and writers from hit TV shows such as “Riverdale” and “Friday Night Lights” for the programs. The shows are shareable and can be binge-watched, too.

The new programming includes “Co-Ed,” which follows freshman college roommates as they navigate university life, and “Growing Up is a Drag,” a coming-of-age drama about teen drag queens.

Nick Bell, Snap’s VP of Content, said the new content is about engaging its current audience, but also attracting new users.

“If the programming really resonates with the demographic … people will go in to school or the workplace, [and] they’ll tell their friends about it,” he told CNN Business’ Samuel Burke. “We hope that will bring new people into the app.”

Snap could use that boost. In its most recent quarter, Snapchat lost daily active users for the first time amid heightened competition from Instagram, which has copied many of its most popular features.

Instagram, owned by Facebook, says more than 400 million people now use its popular Stories feature each day, which lets users post and view photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. That’s more than twice as popular as Snapchat’s daily user base. Snapchat has 188 million daily active users, according to its latest earnings report.

Snap has also seen an exodus of executives over the past year. Just last week, the company said VP of Marketing Steve LaBella would be leaving the company. Other executives that have exited this year include Chief Strategy Officer Imran Khan, Chief Financial Officer Drew Vollero and VP of product Tom Conrad. The company also hasn’t had a chief operating officer since Emily White left the company in 2015.

With Snap Originals, Snapchat will also have to compete with other players like Netflix and Hulu, which also develop original content in addition to traditional TV and other digital platforms.

Bell says Snapchat is well positioned to bring quality content to people on mobile phones considering 3 billion Snaps are sent on the app every day.

“Really good mobile video content is cut vertically,” he said. “It’s very fast paced. It’s hyper visual — and that’s really how Snapchatters are communicating. We’ve taken all of that data, all of the behaviors that have been developed by our audience, and turned it into a playbook.”

To help it stand out, Snap is incorporating augmented reality into some of the new programs. For example, users can swipe up from an episode of the show and interact with the objects and characters via Snap’s AR lenses.

“[You] can go on to the beach with [social media star] Summer McKeen, look around where she lives, see what it’s like. Or with our scripted series, you’ll be able to go around the crime scene to look for clues for yourself,” Bell said.

Snapchat’s most well-known lenses, or filters, give users bunny ears or flower crowns. But users can also flip the camera to augment the world around them and see digital objects on top of the real world.

The company’s biggest challenge is capturing consumers’ attention.

“People have a finite amount of time for watching programming and there are so many places to watch scripted shows now,” said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at research firm eMarketer.

But Snapchat has an advantage because it’s been a pioneer of original shows in the social space, and has strong engagement with younger users.

The company first launched Snapchat Shows two years ago with “Good Luck America,” which focuses on US politics. Snap Shows are typically about five minutes long, shot in a vertical format and made for mobile.

Since then, Snap has added over 60 original series from partners like NBC, CBS, ESPN and the NBA. Snapchat says a number of its daily shows have seen success. For example, NBC News’ twice-daily news broadcast called “Stay Tuned” reaches 5 million unique viewers each day, and Snap says its audience has doubled over the last year.

“Snapchat is one of the most creative and unique communications mediums, and there’s a lot of benefit to that,” said Williamson. “If it keeps executing and making smart moves, then things will turn around for the company.”