NBCUniversal, which invested $500 million in Snap Inc. just before its IPO in March, is taking the investment to the next level by teaming up with the social networking company on a new digital content studio tasked with adding a scripted programming to Snap’s Shows platform. The companies have an equal investment in the yet-to-be-named venture.
The Santa Monica, Calif.-based outfit will be headed by chief content officer Lauren Anderson, an NBC Entertainment veteran who was most recently senior VP of primetime programming at NBC, helping develop and oversee shows such as Parks and Recreation, The Office, The Carmichael Show, and The Good Place. Anderson will work across the industry but also look for opportunities for NBC talent and studio partners under the strategic guidance of NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke.
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Made-for-mobile Snapchat Shows programming will be the unit’s main focus. At launch, it has a deal in place with Donut Studios, the new-model production shop founded by Jay and Mark Duplass, known for recent HBO series like Togetherness and Room 104 as well as a range of budget-conscious indie films.
After Snapchat Stories caught on with traditional TV networks and digital publishers as a way to reach the young, hyper-loyal Snapchat audience, Snapchat Shows has deepened the relationship. Shows from suppliers such as ABC, ESPN and Turner are in the pipeline. NBCU’s E! was the first-ever partner on a Show (a daily news program) and the two companies collaborated on BuzzFeed coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics that was delivered via Show.
“We’ve seen consistent audience growth and engagement on the [Shows] platform,” said Maggie Suniewick, president of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises. “This digital content studio is an extension of our already strong partnership and an opportunity to develop new IP and franchises for a mobile-first audience.”
Sean Mills, head of original content for Snap Inc., said scripted programming is “the next exciting chapter to dive into, and are thrilled to be charting this path with NBCUniversal, who have been amazing collaborators from the start.”
Mark Duplass, creative director of Donut, pointed to one of the core challenges in his official quote in the press release announcing the venure. “For us, shooting in that vertical mobile format is a terrifying and thrilling creative challenge,” he said. “We’ll try not to f— it up.”
While the media business remains beguiled by Snap, Wall Street investors do not yet appear completely sold. The company’s shares closed the trading session at $16.07, off another 2% for the day and well below their initial range after the IPO in March. NBCU parent Comcast added 60 cents to close at $36.61.
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