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Snapchat Ratings Could Be a Hollywood Game Changer

Entertainment industry aims to stay ahead of the curve as mobile app viewership numbers rival TV audiences

As brands scramble to make sense of Snapchat and its value as the fastest growing mobile app, Hollywood may already be ahead of the curve.

Universal was one of the first to see potential in the platform’s growing audience. Snapchat’s first two ads were trailers for the movie studio’s “Ouija” followed by “Dumb and Dumber To.” Since then, movies such as “The DUFF” and “Pitch Perfect 2,” plus TV shows including “Girls” and “Pretty Little Liars” have made strong plays on the mobile messaging app.

But the 2014-2015 awards season may have shown the social platform’s greatest potential as a broadcast medium around live events.

In August, MTV used Snapchat to announce the nominees for the Video Music Awards before they were announced anywhere else. Organizers for the other awards shows quickly jumped on board, partnering with Snapchat to roll out Our Stories — photos and videos known as Snaps curated from multiple users at the same location for a live events montage. (Stories live on a different channel than Snapchat’s Discover media channel.)

Suddenly, the platform previously known as the “sexting app” joined Twitter, Vine, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr as a crucial piece of any social media marketing campaign. And it’s no surprise why. Current estimates put the company’s value at $19 billion with 100 million monthly active users and a viewership on par with the awards shows themselves.

The AMAs Snapchat Story

The AMAs Snapchat Story

Crowd-sourced stories featuring red carpet shots, backstage sneak peeks and audience perspectives sprung up around the Golden Globes and the Grammys. The American Music Awards took their social media presence on the platform one step further with Samsung sponsoring the show’s red carpet Snapchat Story, interspersing user-generated content with branded content.

Not everyone’s convinced, however. The Oscars didn’t feature a Snapchat story from the ceremony this year. “We’re still evaluating the platform,” Josh Spector, Digital Media Director of AMPAS told TheWrap prior to the Academy Awards last month. Instead, Vanity Fair partnered with Snapchat to run a star-studded Our Story from its annual Oscars after-party.

There’s strong incentive for the entertainment industry to stay on top of this digital trend: One billion posts are seen daily, which includes individual users’ stories. That means millions of engaged viewers are keeping their thumbs glued to their screens, consuming content in a format where you can’t skip past ads.

Vanity Fair Snapchat Story

Vanity Fair Snapchat Story

Snapchat won’t share or confirm metrics but recent reports have revealed numbers that rival or best any network series or special events programming: There were 25 million views for Snapchat’s “Snowpocalypse” story and 27 million views for “Techies in Vegas” at CES. To put that in perspective, the Oscars had a total audience of 36.6 million viewers; 16.1 million viewers tuned in to the Globes and 24.8 million viewers watched the Grammys, leading to a rise in reports that Snapchat could be a significant threat to TV.

“Snapchat is very powerful in the way that you can tell stories and the way that you can deliver content through Discover, similar to the serialized style of television,” says Nick Cicero, founder and CEO of Delmondo, a creative talent agency, and strategist at BRaVe Ventures, a media and entertainment consulting group.

But instead of pitting the two channels against each other, he points to Snapchat as a complimentary tool for transmedia storytelling, priming users to be more receptive to content leading up to a show.

The Golden Globes Snapchat Story

The Golden Globes Snapchat Story

That notion of complimentary, not conflicting, experiences is echoed at ABC Family. “It’s a marketer’s dream come true,” Danielle Mullin, ABC Family’s VP Marketing told TheWrap. “We can use Snapchat to send out a snap to 500,000 superfans 10 seconds before the show starts reminding them that a new episode is about to begin, there aren’t many other vehicles you can use for that instantaneous conversation.”

Of course, Twitter still maintains the real-time advantage when it comes to social TV. In 2013, the social network partnered with Nielsen to deliver the Nielsen Twitter TV ratings, measuring the total activity and reach of TV-related conversations on Twitter. While the impact of social media on ratings remains tenuous, the Nielsen numbers provide much-needed metrics for networks and advertisers to track.

Still, Cicero predicts the audience and excitement for Snapchat is strong enough that the Academy will soon add a Snapchat influencer to their Oscars Creators team, regardless of analytics. (Oscars Creators are social influencers brought in by the Academy this year to create social content for Twitter, Vine, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.)

“By giving them exclusive access to things happening around the event, creators help to naturally extend the storyline of the awards to a much wider demographic,” says Cicero. “Consider this: The audience for the last five Oscar telecasts has all had a median age of over 50, but six out of 10 Snapchat users are aged 18-to-24.”