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Snapchat Will Launch Original Scripted Shows This Year

Snapchat's content chief says mobile video will not completely replace television, even as the popular messaging service prepares to debut a new line of original scripted programming for mobile viewers.

Nick Bell, the vice president of content for Snapchat-parent Snap, spoke at the Edinburgh Television Festival on Wednesday about the company's mobile-first TV strategy and plans for the service to premiere new scripted shows before the end of the year. "Mobile is not a TV killer," Bell said at the festival, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He added that mobile video is extremely complementary to TV, because watching longer programming on a small mobile device is still not as desirable as watching "on the glowing box on the wall."

Rather than replace traditional television programming, Bell said that Snap would look to create short scripted Snapchat series that are three-to-five-minutes long. "We see mobile as being fundamentally a new medium," Bell said at the festival. When asked what type of scripted shows he would like to see Snapchat attempt, Bell pointed to long-running programs with beloved characters—such as the British soap Coronation Street, sitcoms like Friends, or an animated show like The Simpsons—only much shorter and with fewer wide shots.

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Snapchat actually did attempt a short-lived original scripted series in 2015. Called Literally Can't Even, the series' first season consisted of nine episodes of roughly five minutes, but the short series was mostly panned online.

Otherwise, Snapchat has mostly relied on major media partnerships for its unscripted original programming, most of which consists of under-five-minute videos spinning-off already existing programs. The messaging service already has deals in place with NBC, for a twice-daily news show and Saturday Night Live shorts, as well as with CBS for a variety show starring The Late Late Show's James Corden, and Viacom's MTV for a revival of the reality show Cribs. In May, Fortune noted that Snap Inc. had also signed development deals over the past year with Walt Disney's ESPN, Discovery, the NFL, A+E Networks, Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, and Vice Media. (Disney's partnership with Snap includes a Snapchat recap show for the popular reality show The Bachelor.)

Snapchat is likely hoping that additional video can help the service speed up its user growth, which has lagged recently overall (and overseas, in particular), despite success with younger U.S. users.

Snapchat is far from being alone in the mobile TV revolution, as streaming entertainment players like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all allow their programming to be streamed via mobile devices. Meanwhile, Facebook is gearing up for its own big rollout of original shows, having just launched its Watch tab for original shows. Twitter also has a number of major media partners providing it with streaming video, and Apple recently announced its own move into original programming (with a $1 billion budget, no less).

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