Snapped shut: Snapchat is axing its original content plans

Take it off the board.
Take it off the board.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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It took more than 24 hours, but the story of Snapchat’s original content ambitions just self-destructed.

Deadline reports that the social network is scrapping its original video hub “Snap Channel,” laying off a number of employees, and rethinking its overall content strategy. Among those leaving the company is Marcus Wiley, whom Snapchat hired to be its head of programming after he served as co-head of comedy at Fox, where he oversaw the development of shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl.

“Given that we are winding down the Snap Channel, it’s natural that Marcus would want to explore other opportunities,” Snapchat told Deadline. Quartz reached out to Snapchat for more information, and we’ll update this story with any response.

Snap Channel was Snapchat’s own hub on its Discover feature, which allows publishers like ESPN, BuzzFeed, CNN, and National Geographic—which covet Snapchat’s 100 million active users comprised mostly of young adults—to post ad-supported videos and stories directly on the Snapchat app. Snap Channel was the home to the company’s several original short-form video series, like Literally Can’t Even, a show released in five-minute episodes that each disappeared after 24 hours.

Snapchat had removed Snap Channel from the app in September, but promised something “new and fresh” in its stead. It now seems as though whatever those plans are have also been abandoned: According to Deadline, Snapchat was working on some kind of “Snap Channel 2.0,” but ultimately scrapped the idea after evaluating how much it would cost.

It’s possible that Snapchat decided it just wasn’t worth competing with the publishers on its Discover platform, which has been mostly well-received and is one of the company’s main sources of revenue. Making original content is often a marketing strategy—a hook to reel in new users or subscribers. For Snapchat, though, it never felt like that was the case. CEO Evan Spiegel and company decided that, for now, Snapchat’s Discover feature doesn’t actually need Snapchat to be a part of it.

Still, it’s surprising news, given that the trend right now is for media and tech companies to be getting into original content, not out of it. But that’s not easy to do. Microsoft, for instance, axed its original content plans when it closed down Xbox Entertainment Studios last year. That decision also appeared to be made because the benefits of original series were outweighed by the costs of making them.

The Hollywood Reporter says Snapchat may not give up on original content entirely, and could roll something totally different out in the coming months. But Snap Channel, as we know it, is dead, as are the original series that it hosted.