Viacom and Snap are eyeing Snapchat stars for shows

Viacom and Snapchat are working together to create new shows that would star top Snapchat stars.

In a multiyear original content and advertising deal renewal, the media giant said Snap approached Viacom about developing and producing shows using top Snapchat celebrities. Viacom could cast those stars in existing programming that it’s producing for Snapchat — say, as a guest on the Snapchat version of the reality series “Cribs” — or develop new show ideas and formats with select influencers. Viacom and Snap hold weekly development meetings, during which they exchange ideas on shows as well as casting, said Kelly Day, president of Viacom Digital Studios.

“[Snap has] identified a number of different top influencers on the platform and said that if we can develop shows with those folks, it’s something they’re looking at doing going forward,” said Day. “That’s something that has worked on other platforms in the past, where you can lean into the people who are already popular on the platform.”

Snapchat has original content and advertising partnerships with other big media giants, including NBCUniversal and Turner. A Snap spokesperson wouldn’t say if it has made similar proposals to other media partners.

Snap’s relationship with social media stars has not always been warm, with the company favoring friends and personal relationships over public content created by Snapchat stars. That has changed in recent months, as Snapchat tries to grow the audience, time spent and revenue from the platform.

The renewal calls for Viacom to produce original video shows and continue publishing daily editions of MTV Snapchat Discover channels for the U.S., France and other international markets. Viacom also plans to produce and choose public stories tied to major events on its TV programming calendar, including the MTV Video Music Awards, Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards and the BET Hip Hop Awards.

To start, Viacom will bring back two of its existing Snapchat shows, “Girl Code” and “Cribs.” A third show, which does not have a premiere date yet, is called “Promposal” and will feature teens asking potential dates to prom in outlandish ways. Day said Viacom has a pilot for a fourth show in development, but wouldn’t give specifics. All of the programming will be produced by Viacom Digital Studios, a new 300-person division inside the company that brings together social and digital content and marketing teams across all Viacom networks.

For major media giants such as Viacom, Snapchat is a platform where they can extend existing media brands and intellectual property to new and younger audiences — “Girl Code,” “Cribs” and “Promposal” are all based off of TV shows of the same name — effectively making the platform a marketing vehicle for the media companies.

“Right now, our emphasis is on brand awareness, audience development and audience engagement,” Day said. “We will focus on profitability and monetization [on Snapchat] down the road, but our first priority is audience awareness and engagement.”

Day wouldn’t say if Viacom’s Snapchat efforts are profitable.

Viacom’s deal with Snap gives it total control over the ad-sales inventory across its programming on the platform — something the company will talk to clients about and push at the NewFronts.

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