By Rick Munarriz
Snapchat’s parent company is moving into soft-scripted documentary shows featuring a YouTube star — a recipe that hasn’t worked for Google before.
Snap Inc. (NYSE:SNAP) continues to go Hollywood. Snapchat’s parent company is dipping its feet into the soft-scripted docu-series niche, according to Variety. The move will expand its push into original programming to drive user engagement.
Endless Summer will star teen model Summer Mckeen, a beauty and fashion vlogger that has built up a huge following on Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) subsidiary Google’s YouTube. Mckeen now has more than 1.4 million subscribers to her YouTube channel. Hitching one’s post to a young YouTuber on the rise seems like a no-brainer. The built-in audience is there, and the salary demands are modest relative to actual movie and TV celebrities. However, Google itself has stumbled in plucking its most magnetic YouTube stars in its own push for original content. Snap is hoping to avoid failing as well.
Endless Summer will follow the 19-year-old model and budding entrepreneur as she moves out of her home to live on her own in Laguna Beach. The show is currently in production. It is expected to debut in September.
This won’t be a one-time thing. Snap has other docu-series shows in development. Endless Summer just happens to be the first entry in this niche. Snapchat has had some initial success by turning to cable networks and other established media companies for the Snapchat Discover platform, but that content traffic took a hit earlier this year with the site’s controversial redesign.
Banking too heavily on a YouTuber isn’t a guarantee for success, a lesson that Alphabet has painfully learned with Google’s YouTube push to go premium. YouTube Red — recently rebranded as YouTube Premium — hoped to get its freeloaders to pay up for its subscription-based service by casting popular YouTube personalities in studio-produced scripted and reality shows. It didn’t work. The same stars that had amassed tens of millions of YouTube subscribers weren’t enough to sway people over to the other side of the paywall.
A couple of those original YouTube Red stars would also go on to get into hot water for comments and actions in some of their videos, hurting YouTube’s credibility in tapping marketable stars. Instead of trying to bring more creators into the fold, YouTube alienated the community by doubling down on its biggest stars in February by dismissing smaller contributors from its monetization platform. The purge continues, as many new creators applying for monetization on YouTube have been waiting for months since registering for the perk. Even many of those cut loose in February — told that their readmission to the program would be automatically reviewed within a week or two of meeting the minimum requirements for monetization — continue to be left out in the cold. I should know. I’m on my fifth week.
Snap should still make this work. An important distinction between Snapchat Discover and YouTube Premium is that Snapchat’s platform for professionally produced content remains a free ad-supported offering. Folks that didn’t want to pay up for YouTube Red (and now YouTube Premium) will not have to worry about that particular tollbooth here. YouTube may have had the data on the stars it would go on to cast, but Snap is the one that has the right price in the eyes of its young penny-pinching viewers.
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