With slim ad revenue, UK publishers look to alternatives for Snapchat shows

The wider roll-out of Snap’s six-second commercials in Europe is expected to bring more revenue to show creators, but until then publishers are also looking to other ways to make money off their Snapchat efforts, including piloting shows to sell to broadcasters and exploring e-commerce options.

Snap introduced Shows to the U.K. in October, adding 17 U.K. content partners with 25 new shows to its roster with the assumption that more local content leads to more audience. The Guardian, Channel 4 and Culture Trip, as well as existing Discover partners like Sky News, Vice and PinkNews all launched Shows.

For U.K. publishers, the upside was that content didn’t have to be exclusive, and it could be monetized through a revenue share with Snap: Publishers have been cautious to rely on volatile handouts from platforms to produce content. But revenue from ads in Shows isn’t the end goal for most, who are using the platform in creative ways for other revenue streams. When asked to comment on this piece, Snap said it was too early to draw definitive conclusions from the success of Shows in the U.K., but audiences are growing and it plans to add more content partners this year. The company doesn’t disclose details on revenue but said it’s committed to supporting partners in building sustainable businesses. It couldn’t share details of when commercials would roll out more widely.

Digital media company Brave Bison, which has two channels on the platform, Mutha and Perk and a few shows running across them, is using Snap as a way of piloting content and format ideas that it can build up audiences and take to other platforms or broadcasters. The channels have been well-received, getting between 3 million and 4 million monthly views per show, and are working at building the audiences, said Will Pyne, chief creative officer at the company.

“We need to mitigate the lack of revenue, or the potential lack of monetization, so if it doesn’t cover the cost, it’s not the end of the world; we can use the ideas elsewhere,” said Pyne. “Monetization is challenging — it’s difficult to say it’s a huge money spinner — but it depends on whether you look at monetization as a binary yes or no.”

Other publishers like PinkNews are using Snap for testing formats to sell. The LGBT digital publisher has the second series of its agony aunt show “Ask the Aunties” due in February. Season one had monthly unique viewers in the millions. The publisher is in discussions with broadcasters and producers in the U.K. and overseas about the intellectual property it’s creating for shows.

“We expect long-term revenue from the formats and the actual content themselves,” said Benjamin Cohen, CEO and editor-in-chief of PinkNews. “It’s been taken into account for the budgeting for this type of content.”

Publishers look hungrily to Vertical Networks’ “Phone Swap” with 10 million viewers per episode and versions on Fox in the U.S. and on BBC3 in the U.K. But not everyone will get that kind of hit. In the U.S., average audience sizes for E!’s “Face Forward” have more than 4 million unique viewers per episode and NBC News’ “Stay Tuned” roughly 5 million unique viewers per day.

E-commerce is another avenue publishers like PinkNews are keen to explore. In the U.S. where Snapchat added a commerce function in early 2018, the results have been mixed, but PinkNews is exploring ad formats to shop merchandise — custom superheroes on shirts — from the characters it has developed on Snapchat.

One Snapchat Shows publisher with monthly views under 10 million said it was getting monthly revenue in the low four figures.

Vice, which has five different Shows across two of its brands Vice and ID said it was seeing CPMs for Shows were on a par with what it sees in its Discover edition, where it publishes in local editions in France, Germany, U.K. and U.S., and has grown monthly active users across those four channels to 35 million. It’s seeing “solid” revenue numbers from Discover, and with vertical ad creative on the increase, popularized through other platforms, it only expects monetization to grow, especially as six-second unskippable ad units are introduced, which U.S. advertisers say show promise for being cost-effective versus competitors.

“If you look at what Snapchat is trying to achieve — returnable, repeatable programming — it’s giving it a genuinely good shot,” said Olly Osborne, marketing director for EMEA at Vice. “On Facebook, it’s difficult for us to get returnable viewing. The news feed is different every day; it’s difficult to string the formats together. Snapchat gives us an area for that programming.”

Snapchat’s attraction has been reaching younger audiences who might not be on other platforms, so using the platform as a brand-building exercise over revenue driver has made sense. Vice has found that the interactive features and polls on Snapchat exceed other platforms. Vice polled its Snapchat audience on whether they knew people who took Xanax and had 85,000 respondents in the U.K., feeding into a wider investigation of counterfeit Xanax and mental health.

For now, it’s still relatively easy to get cut through compared to other platforms. There are around 25 content creators across Shows and Publisher Stories in the U.K., but that won’t last forever. And as Snapchat has pushed its self-serve ad system, it’s opened itself up to fake ads. In the U.K., Snap controls just 0.5 percent of the U.K. digital ad market (Google and Facebook together control 60.8 percent). There’s room for head growth, and these ads are unlikely to dissuade audience-hungry marketers and publishers. Publishers are seeing higher view counts than on Facebook, historically the place for greater reach.

“[Snapchat] is not a platform to make a huge amount of money from, but it gives us huge visibility on storytelling,” said Brian Whelan, content director at Joe Media. “It covers costs; it would be difficult to justify if the content couldn’t live elsewhere.”

Joe Media’s third Show is launching in February, giving an insight into the human side of U.K. politicians by joining them in with their hobbies, for instance, surfing with Conservative member of parliament Johnny Mercer and boxing with Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan.

On Snapchat, Joe gained a larger audience than on Facebook for another one of its Shows, “Fight of Your Life,” following mixed martial arts fight Dylan Evans and his journey after being diagnosed with cancer. Toward the end of the season, episodes were getting a million views each on Snapchat, said Whelan, compared to versions on Facebook which peaked at 143,000 views. Compared to editions, Shows content is evergreen, and publishers find people who start watching the final episode go back to binge the rest of the series thanks in part to Snapchat’s next watch function.

“There are some stories we want to tell,” said Whelan. “And Snapchat is an extra way to get eyeballs on things wouldn’t get seen otherwise.”


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