MTV is gearing up to hook a new generation: the Snapchat kids.
The channel that once defined cool on TV is bringing two of its shows to the teen-heavy app. “Cribs” will premiere June 3 and run every Saturday, and “Girl Code” will launch July 27.
MTV’s “Cribs” making a comeback isn’t breaking news. MTV had announced the classic’s return as a Snapchat show back in April 2016. At the time, it was expected to launch that June, with guests Mac Miller, Austin Mahone, and Travis Mills.
More than a year later, MTV is finally bringing Snapchat users into artists’ homes. The first episode will feature DJ and producer Steve Aoki followed by Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, and professional skateboarder Nyjah Huston. The weekly shows are produced exclusively for Snapchat, meaning vertical-only and between three and five minutes per episode.
“It should feel 2017,” said Garth Bardsley, VP of original video at MTV Digital. “When you see it, it’ll feel very much like ‘Cribs,’ and it will show that we shot for that platform. There’s maybe a little less bling. People don’t care that much about bling and care more about stories.”
The rollout comes as both MTV and Snapchat have matured. Snap Inc. is now a publicly-traded company, and MTV is facing the despair of most cable networks: declining viewership. The time both media networks have spent on the project is significant.
Snapchat “could be the first place that they ever encounter MTV, so it’s important for us to have premium channels,” said Thomas Fishman, senior vice president of growth and engagement at MTV Digital. “As an iconic franchise, we have a deep loyalty. We wanted to launch it as soon as we could but we wanted to make sure that we checked all the boxes.”
Snapchat, indeed, is where the kids are—and that’s who MTV still identifies with. Teens spend far less time watching TV these days, meaning MTV has had to change with the times.
“Our mission statement, for us internally, we’re thinking about how to engage and entertain a youth audience, everything from escapism to activism,” Fishman said.
“At our core MTV is concerned with reaching a young audience at scale in a way that’s relevant,” Fishman continued.
When MTV first announced the shows back in April 2016, the entire concept was brand new. Now, Snapchat has about one Show airing every day and more than 100 in development. Other series include Vertical Network’s “Phone Swap,” A&E’s “Second Chance,” as well as Snapchat versions of NBC’s “World of Dance” and ABC’s “The Bachelor.”
But MTV is far from new to the platform. It was among first TV networks on the app and worked closely with Snapchat’s “small crew of people that were meant to be media liaisons,” Fishman said in the app’s early days.
MTV’s account is followed every day by a “few million people,” according to Fishman. As Snapchat added new features—Our Stories in June 2014 and Discover in January 2016—MTV was all in.
“I have to give them credit,” Fishman said. “They have a very uniquely content-first approach to running what is ultimately a huge communication network so the sense is we are partners.”
MTV didn’t launch on the U.S. version of Discover, at first. Snapchat, Fishman said, was looking for just 12 partners. MTV’s parent company Viacom began conversations and last year announced a multi-year agreement that includes Viacom selling U.S. advertising for Snapchat.
For MTV, the network is riding a wave of new announcements. It just wrapped up its annual MTV Movie Awards and also relaunched “Fear Factor,” hosted by Ludacris.
“We’re at this point where we were making a lot of noise,” Fishman said. “We try to line these up to make sure we’re staying culturally relevant.”
When it came to Snapchat Shows, MTV saw the relevance. “On Shows, it’s one more platform to connect. Now it’s, ‘Okay, how do we want to talk to our audience?” Bardsley said.
It’s not just about being there. MTV also sells advertising against their Our Stories and Discover channel. That’s probably not enough money to move the needle for a company like MTV, but it’s an important entry into the high-end digital market that is looking to grab TV ad dollars.
“All those in our ad sale worlds become super-valuable packages,” Fishman said. There’s an “awesome multi-pronged sense of the brand we bring our ad partners.”
But isn’t Snapchat over? Facebook, the network with nearly 2 billion people, is gearing up to launch its own original shows. In fact, Facebook hired Mina Lefevre, formerly a vice president at MTV, to help lead the development of these shows.
MTV is still hooked. “Snapchat has never been a question to us here,” Bardsley said. “The rest of it is out there in the press and the ether, but we believe in the product and the partnership. The truth is in 100s of millions of daily active users, and we can express ourselves creatively.”
“There’s perspective on the competition between the platforms for business and trade, but if you’re a kid, they all occupy different places in your life. If you’re a particular type of person you might gravitate toward a handful. For us, the audience is there.”