Olympic Trials: Snapchat Will Test the Power of Live Video at NBC's Winter Games

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Snapchat will notify users when Olympic events go live.
Snapchat will notify users when Olympic events go live. Credit: Snapchat

NBC's Olympics will stream live moments on Snapchat, offering a testing ground for the app before it expands live streaming to more networks and events.

The limited rollout means only professional broadcasters can turn on the live cameras, not everyday users, but it brings Snapchat into a competitive live-streaming business that's already occupied by rivals including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

Snapchat is keeping a tight grip on who goes live to prevent low-quality streams from crowding the app, according to a person familiar with the new offering, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There will be no commercials in the content from NBC's trial run, but as has happened with previous Snapchat products, ads are likely to come eventually.

Snapchat designed the live videos to play in vertical mode, a format that is familiar to its users, though viewers can push the frame to follow the action if it moves outside the vertical limits of the screen.

Snapchat will send notifications when live events are streaming, but users have to opt-in to receive them.

The live experiment is just one piece of a broader, close collaboration with NBC around the Olympics. NBC is also an investor in Snapchat.

There are about 20 sponsors spending on Snapchat during the Olympics. When the company announced quarterly results on Tuesday, CEO Evan Spiegel declared the app the "the biggest mobile partner there."

On top of the new live videos, Snapchat also will host daily video compilations from NBC showing the action in and around the games. NBC is producing two Olympics shows for Snapchat's media section, Discover. BuzzFeed (another NBC investment) will also produce Discover content around the games.

Marketers do appear inside the Discover section, where their ads display between the videos and other content.

The Olympics is a crucial opportunity for Snapchat to show the power of its ads business. The company on Tuesday reported robust fourth-quarter revenue of $286 million, mostly from ad sales, up 72% over the quarter a year prior. The fourth quarter is often strong for advertising, however, and Snapchat tried to temper any expectations that it would show the same growth this quarter even with the Olympics.

"The majority of our revenue is generated through brand advertising, which seasonally peaks in the fourth quarter," Drew Vollero, Snapchat's chief financial officer, told analysts during an earnings call.

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