AT&T to Premiere Show on Snapchat Starring YouTube, Vine Celebs

Telecom Giant Follows Up Reality Series With Scripted Program

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Snapchat headquarters in Venice Beach, Calif.
Snapchat headquarters in Venice Beach, Calif. Credit: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg
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A day after Snapchat formally entered the media business, the ephemeral messaging service is getting its first scripted show.

AT&T has created a scripted series called "SnapperHero" that will air episodes exclusively on Snapchat when it premieres later this quarter. AT&T claims the show will be the first scripted entertainment series to premiere on Snapchat. A Snapchat spokeswoman was unable to confirm whether that is true and said the company was not familiar with the series.

"SnapperHero" will star a handful of top online video celebrities from YouTube, Vine, Instagram and Snapchat, such as Freddie Wong, Harley Morenstein and Anna Akana. These stars will play superheroes acting out plotlines that their fans will help write.

Using their various social accounts, the show's stars will spend the next couple weeks soliciting their fans for ideas to work into the series, like what costumes their character should wear or what their characters' superpowers should be. The show's production and writing teams will collect the suggestions and find ways to work them into the episodes.

"This generation is really co-creative, and they feel a lot of ownership for the influencers and their careers and their successes and their content. To give them an opportunity to participate in something like this will spur an entirely different type of engagement," said AT&T's engagement marketing director Liz Nixon.

This isn't AT&T's first branded online video series aimed at millennials and teens. The telecom giant has produced two seasons of reality show "Summer Break," which followed a group of teenagers, and distributed episodes primarily on YouTube as well as Twitter, Tumblr and Snapchat. The second season of "Summer Break" nabbed 49.1 million views in its second season, according to AT&T. That show was created with former Chernin Group executive Billy Parks, who developed "SnapperHero" with AT&T and United Talent Agency's Kendall Ostrow.

Mr. Parks said "SnapperHero" was conceived specifically with Snapchat in mind for distribution after he and AT&T saw that "Summer Break" fans were really into sending "snaps" back and forth with that series' stars.

"What we learned with 'Summer Break' around Snapchat is that it was a rad platform for engagement," Mr. Parks said.

But engagement on Snapchat can be ephemeral. As with all stories posted to Snapchat, twenty-four hours after a "SnapperHero" episodes airs it will disappear. That's often a pain point for brands and content creators who typically want as many people to check out their content as possible. And it may be particularly problematic if people don't find out about "SnapperHero" until an episode or two have already premiered.

Mr. Parks said episodes will start with 10- to 30-second-long recaps of previous episodes to get people up to speed. And Ms. Nixon said Mr. Parks and production company Corridor Digital will create a documentary-style video after the series wraps that could be distributed outside of Snapchat's ephemeral grasp.

AT&T plans to air the show's 12 episodes over a four-week period sometime this quarter. Mr. Parks said the plan is to post a new episode every three days or so during that four-week window. Episodes are expected to run between 100 and 200 seconds.

As with "Summer Break," AT&T will look for ways to feature its brand in episodes without being annoyingly over-the-top about it. Ms. Nixon said the show's stars will use AT&T devices and episodes will find other ways to incorporate products from AT&T.

Online video network Fullscreen and former MTV chief Judy McGrath's production company Astronauts Wanted are producing the show.