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NBCUniversal and Snap Team Up To Bring Innovative Content To Snapchat; Can They Succeed?

Snap Inc. announced today another big deal—a partnership with NBCUniversal on a new digital content studio for their new Snap Show’s platform. NBCUniversal, which invested $500 million in Snap prior to its March 2017 IPO, will be assisting the social media network in the creation of original scripted programming—a move that will capitalize on their mobile audience.

Los Angeles-based Donut Studios, recently founded by Jay and Mark Duplass who are best known for HBO’s “Togetherness” and “Room 104,” should give Snap some street cred. And former NBC Entertainment veteran Lauren Anderson, who will work across industry as well as look for opportunities for talent within the Peacock Network, will serve as chief content officer.

It’s smart for Snap to go in this direction, despite stiff competition from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others in and increasingly crowded digital video space. What makes this deal different, however, is that Snap is taking advantage of its influential young millennial and Gen Z audience, which marketers and advertisers have been clamoring to reach since Snapchat launched in 2011.

In addition, I believe the next generation of video content will be pioneered in social media platforms that target young generations, like Snapchat. One of my colleagues, Julian Mitchell, called out this movement toward "Social Network Television" back in 2015 as younger generations became more connected to their devices and less interested in linear TV.

Even though Snap did beat Facebook to market—Facebook TV shouldn’t be too far behind. The social networking giant pledged to spend “as much as $1 billion” in original programming next year. And this isn’t the first time Facebook and Snap have made similar moves—Facebook followed in Snapchat’s footsteps with the launch of Instagram Stories, modeled after Snapchat’s Stories, in August 2016.

The winner in my view will be the social network that is able to break away from traditional video production to fully commit to entertainment of the young generations, fueling a new wave of entertainment. Catering to mobile entertainment will be key. The Ambassadors Company surveyed teens 15-18 years old and found 68% of them use their phones to watch live video. Maxine Marcus, a Gen Z CEO and founder of the company, states: "As the first generation of digital natives, we champion mobile content because it is convenient and what we've known our entire lives."

For mobile entertainment on social networks, you don’t have to limit yourself to just producing video, it’s more about telling compelling stories that fit in a mobile device, catering to social media influencers. The barriers across content forms can be more easily broken in mobile platforms, so I foresee the next generation of mobile content as story-telling that combines scripted content with music videos, augmented reality, text, messages, games, and other forms that combined can create an innovative, compelling experience that attracts young influencers and creates viral effects.

NBCUniversal has the expertise to produce high quality content. Snapchat has its laser focus on the digital natives. Together, they have the recipe for radical innovation in mobile content. Let's see if the NBCUniversal-Snap studio can pull it off.