I am standing on a beach, and a group of beautiful twenty-year-olds gather around a bonfire. There's Dylan, a passionate dreamer, who plays the acoustic guitar with his millennial pink sweatshirt. And Summer, she is an ambitious lover of life, wearing red Chuck Taylors that match her jacket.
I know their names and their personalities, because their backgrounds float above their heads. And in case I had not made it clear, I'm not really on the beach in Orange County. I'm standing in my basement, watching the scene through a "portal" of Snapchat AR, which immerses me in a 360 degree moment that feels like a cross between a beach party and a trailer for a new MTV reality show.
This effect is by design. The experience I'm seeing is part of a new Snapchat program called Endless summer, produced by Bunim-Murray, the same producer that brought us The real world. It's part of Snap's ongoing obsession with leveraging its own interactive social platform to boost the nature of programming.
This week, Snap is presenting its biggest initiative in the original programming. Nicknamed Snap Originals, it includes a dozen new shows produced specifically for Snap, ranging from a horror anthology to a mysterious campus mystery created by a writer in Riverdale, to a docuseries about drag queens who are coming of age.
The content of Snap itself has not been a success, after a controversial redesign, especially, its editors reported having lost visits. But in the past two years, it has become a successful platform for the company that Sean Mills, head of Original Content for Snap, quickly points to the usual viewing style of television audiences, rather than viral events on YouTube. The SportsCenter program on Snapchat reaches 2.5 million viewers, and the NBC News audience has doubled in Snap in the last year, from 2.5 to 5 million viewers per day. That's a small cry from Snapchat's 188 million active daily users worldwide, but it puts the NBC Snapchat audience on par with a successful cable show.
However, with its new content push, Snap does not just want to duplicate TV shows or Netflix binges. For any position where its stock may be, Snap wants to do something more ambitious: push the narrative medium forward, taking advantage of its AR advances and the social platform to do so.
"What we've done in the past has been a lot about how to figure out the format, think of the mobile as a new medium and the DNA of how to tell stories," says Mills, referring to the company's success in introducing the vertical screen . Video, and touch shots to advance, each of which is now a pillar to consume content on mobile devices. "But I think the next level for us is about the interactive piece: how do we make the audience more a participant in the story and less a passive spectator?"
The aforementioned Endless summer The portal is a step towards that. Snap's own engineers worked with the creators of the program to shoot a 360-degree video scene, then reinforced it with dimensional audio and graphics that allow someone on Snapchat to walk through the scene as if they were inside it. Well done, Mills imagines that these scenes will not be just unique promotions, but are an integral part of the story experience.
"What I love about the lens of the portal is that we can shoot really critical moments of the program, and allow a user to take out their phone, open their camera, open the portal, literally get up from their couch, between to the scene, look around and be in a show, "says Mills. "I could imagine looking at these characters around the campfire, playing the guitar, maybe there is a love triangle."
For the Original Snap Lies class, the portal takes a different form. It is not a filmed scene, but a completely digital environment, like a video game, that allows you to explore the bedroom where the protagonists of the program live, bring the phone to the surface to inspect photos or other elements for clues. The technology is based on the uncontrolled success of Snap with its AR and World Lenses facial filters. But the company wants to think beyond puppies' selfies and explore how that fundamental technology can create the next must-visit experiences online.
For now, you will enter these portals when you slip into a key moment of the program. But if Snap discovers that these portals attract his audience, the company imagines that they do not need to be complementary to the programming; It could be the programming itself.
"At the moment they are additive, maybe they become more part of the narrative and, eventually, you have complete stories that unfold in a series of five portals," says Mills. "You solve a crime, or you see two people falling in love, where the whole show is experienced in this virtual world."
Of course, Snap does not just look for new experiences; the company needs to take advantage shared Experiences to keep their users doing ping-pong around the application. Another new interactive element that you are introducing is for the reactions. Just like people shoot reaction videos to various shows and memes on YouTube, a pivotal scene in Endless summer will ask the user to slide up to shoot and share their reaction; Endless summer background.
It is an example of how powerful Snap programming can be, since it exists in such an autonomous platform, where consumption and creation of media can be confused in one in the same thing. Snap can become not only a content channel, but also a place where content is discussed. It's like doubling the HBO season finale of game of Thrones on Twitter, where fans are talking wtf just happened to jon snowon a platform This combination is powerful, because Snap can work with creators of programs to create a programming moment that is worth sharing, and then share it.
"Where I would like to see how this evolves is also that a user may have the option to react to any scene at any time within a show," says Mills, who warns that it is still an experiment that requires the right partners to try. "I do not seek to offer in the same programs that people buy in the city that promote their production budgets, I am working with artists who want to decipher the code in a new medium".
In fact, if one thing is clear when talking to Mills during the development process of Snap Originals, Snap knows that some of his ideas could fail. But the company still recognizes that it has the most mature platform to drive mobile storytelling in new, interactive, strange and perhaps irresistible ways. That is, as long as Snap users like what they see.
"I could tell him that I have a very clear vision, but what is dangerous is that I do not want to have a vision that does not correspond to what the audience wants," says Mills. "I think we're starting to experiment with these things, next year or two they'll be very exciting in terms of the things we can try."