Snap bets that immersive documentaries will keep people sticking close to Snapchat

Show & tell.
Show & tell.
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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Ten years after BBC’s first Planet Earth natural history series aired on television, the sequel, which has already aired in the UK, is set to debut in the US and Canada on Feb. 18. And this time, BBC has created a special six-part series for Snapchat to complement the program.

Unlike other television shows available on Snapchat, such as ABC’s The Bachelor or NBC’s The Voice, the companion content for BBC’s Planet Earth II provides a high-definition documentary experience, with sweeping landscape shots, dramatic animal closeups, and an intense soundtrack. It marks the first time Snapchat has featured binaural recording, a surround-sound effect meant to make for a more realistic immersion into the show.

The content announcement follows some long-awaited IPO news from Snapchat’s parent company, Snap. In a Feb. 2 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Snap detailed its plans to raise $3 billion through its initial public offering.

Although Instagram’s Stories have posed a threat to Snapchat, Snap is betting big on Snapchat Discover, which allows the company to show off content and in turn potentially build viewership and ad sales. Specifics on the company’s advertising model haven’t been detailed yet, and whether Snapchat is really paying off for publishers is unclear as well, but many broadcast networks are taking a leap of faith.

Media companies in Snap’s lineup of original show deals include Disney, NBCUniversal, and Viacom. Snap said its partners are selected based on opportunities for growth and the ability to provide informative and creative content.

At the end of 2016, the app had 161 million daily active users and was making about $1 per user, according to company documents. Snap’s move into providing content and monetizing its platform began with the debut of Snapchat Discover two years ago. The company updated guidelines for its Discover publishers last month as a move to age-gate mature content and fight fake news.