Underscoring the complicated relationship between the tech world and traditional entertainment, Snapchat has done a course correction on its original content strategy, opting to shut down its Snap Channel permanently, leading to the departure of a number of employees, including Marcus Wiley, Head of Program Planning and Development.
Launched in January, Snap Channel had marked Snapchat’s foray into self-generated original content. The fast-growing social network made a statement about its ambitions in the arena with the May hire of former Fox SVP Comedy Wiley as programming head. A team of about 15 people was assembled with the goal to develop and produce content for Snap Channel on the Discovery platform, primarily shortform narrative/musical series — some of them experimental.
A couple of weeks ago, Snapchat removed the original content-focused Snap Channel from the Discover platform with the promise that it would be relaunched. Wiley and his team had been tasked with creating the backbone of programming for Snap Channel 2.0, which they had been doing with the company’s blessing. But upon careful examination of what that would entail money-wise, that plan has been scrapped, with Snapchat hitting pause on its original programming efforts via Snap Channel and re-examining its overall original content strategy.
“Given that we are winding down the Snap Channel, it’s natural that Marcus would want to explore other opportunities,” Snapchat said in a statement to Deadline. “He is a tremendous talent, and we wish him well.”
The Snapchat development team had been in the midst of talks with major studios and production companies on multiple shows when the shutdown news came today, catching all by surprise. Many of the 15 members on the team will be laid off; a few junior execs might be reassigned within the company.
The sudden course reversal came just as Snap Channel’s programming team was settling into a new 12,000-square-foot studio facility in Marina del Rey where they had moved in just weeks ago. The facility likely will be used for other employees of the company.
For original content, Snapchat will rely solely on its Discover content partners for the time being. Snapchat ventured into ad-supported content with the January rollout of its revenue-generating Discover platform, which features articles and videos from 15 media brands, including ESPN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, CNN, National Geographic, Vice and Yahoo.
According to insiders, Snapchat’s original goal for the Snap Channel was to experiment with what goes into creating successful content, knowledge that they were looking to use for the features done with the company’s partners on the Discover platform and for improving the platform overall, something that had been accomplished.
Snapchat is not closing the door to revisiting original content in the future. If that happens, it will be done via a different venue, not Snap Channel.
Moving into original content is a scary proposition for a tech company as it involves a very big financial investment, and sometimes Silicon Valley execs are not aware of the full extent of the commitment until they get into it. Software giant Microsoft abruptly shut down its Xbox Entertainment Studios last year, with the company shifting priorities to its core business.
Launched in 2011 and boasting 100 million active monthly users, Snapchat allows the sending of “snaps” — photos and videos with added text and drawings — which get automatically deleted shortly after recipients view them. The video messaging application, only available on smartphones, is especially popular with the 13-34 crowd, who watch some 4 billion Snapchat videos a day, according to the company.