Fusion Gets a Tryout on Snapchat Discover

Sprint Signs on as Launch Sponsor

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It's not clear what sort of success Fusion will need to secure a lasting roster spot on Snapchat's Discover feature.
It's not clear what sort of success Fusion will need to secure a lasting roster spot on Snapchat's Discover feature. Credit: Courtesy Fusion

Fusion Chief Strategy Officer Boris Gartner called it "the perfect Christmas gift": The cable channel and digital media network is getting a trial run as a channel on Snapchat's Discover feature, starting Monday.

Fusion has had a presence on the international version of Discover since January, when it launched, but will get "a couple months" on the U.S. and U.K. edition.

After that, Mr. Gartner -- of course -- is hoping that Fusion gets a permanent spot on the app.

Seventeen publishers, including Buzzfeed, ESPN and CNN, have a presence on the domestic version of Discover, which allows media companies to create bespoke experiences for the app's predominantly millennial (and coveted) audience.

Mr. Gartner said Fusion's international experience on Discover has been great prep for Monday's U.S. launch.

"The fact that we've had a chance to test with the platform and the content and the different form for a while has been really helpful for us," he told Ad Age. "Now we're really excited to play on our home turf."

Fusion, with a Snapchat team of eight to 10 dedicated employees, supplemented by five or six more staffers helping out, will program the same content for both U.S./U.K. and international audiences. But Fusion has been "revamping the look and feel" of its Discover channel in preparation for the new trial.

Sprint has signed up as a launch sponsor, the company's first foray into Snapchat advertising, according to Fusion.

"We've had a lot of interest and traction from our current advertising base," Mr. Gartner said.

Because Fusion doesn't have a dedicated international sales team, the U.S./U.K. launch will provide a new opportunity for making money from the programming, he said. Thus far, Mr. Gartner said, Fusion's focus has been on getting the content right.

It's not clear what sort of success Fusion will have to have during its trial run to secure a full-time spot on the app. In the past, Snapchat has booted off publishers such as Yahoo that haven't been successful.
Mr. Gartner declined to share whether Fusion has been given a performance target, and Snapchat representatives didn't respond to a request for comment.

Fusion, unlike Discover publishers like Vox.com (a recent addition) and Mashable, has multiple TV channels at its disposal to help get the word out about its Snapchat channel. The company is a joint venture between Disney/ABC and Univision.

As such, Fusion will be running spots for the channel (replete with a deep-link to access it) on the Fusion, Univision and El Rey TV networks. There will also be TV integrations, including a live preview of the refreshed Snapchat channel on the Univision morning show "Despierta America" on Monday.

Mr. Gartner called it "putting the power of the portfolio to create awareness about the channel," and said that it'll be a good opportunity for the company to see whether linear TV ads can really drive engagement to a social media platform like Snapchat.

He's also convinced that Snapchat Discover is worth the trouble, despite some questions in the past about whether the feature is really attracting enough views for significant labor involved.

"For us it is definitely a great opportunity," Mr. Gartner said. Citing the reach of a platform like Snapchat, which boasts an estimated 200 million users, he said: "We're trying to fish where the fish are."

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