Snapchat is directly challenging Twitter as the go-to app for young mobile audiences to get their entertainment fix.
The Snapchat-Twitter battle over Social TV is the bellwether for their wider strategic antagonism and demonstrates Snapchat’s potential to become Twitter’s nemesis.
UPDATE: 12 million people watched the Snapchat Live Story about MTV’s Video Music Awards, while 9.8 million viewers watched the TV broadcast. The show generated 21.4 million tweets.
Social TV is currently dominated by Twitter and Facebook. Twitter enables viewers to comment publicly and particularly during the transmission of TV programming. This is well-suited to live sports broadcasts and televised events, such as awards shows.
Facebook, with its enormous user base, hosts a massive volume of TV-related conversation, mainly posts made privately by users before and after live viewing.
Snapchat now threatens to disrupt this cosy status quo with its mobile-native platform, innovative Live Story format, TV network deals and video-hungry users.
Twitter’s hold over live Social TV viewer engagement is vulnerable.
Snapchat is moving into the TV sector fast and is well-positioned to challenge Twitter for Social TV revenue, particularly around live events.
Its capability to attract both young users, and also the same TV networks and brands which partner Twitter, puts the two companies in direct competition.
If Snapchat maintains its success with audiences, broadcasters and advertisers, it threatens to make Twitter less and less relevant for all three of them.
Snapchat is making rapid progress in creating original content for a wide range of live events, many of them televised. It is also forging strong partnerships with global broadcasters, such as MTV and CNN, for them to distribute their own content via Snapchat’s Discover platform.
The app already generates a remarkable four billion daily video views from 100 million daily active users, the same number of video views as Facebook, which has 1.5 billion users. This indicates a level of video consumption per user which vastly exceeds its rivals.
Also Read: Futurescape’s Strategy Report on Snapchat
Competing for MTV, its viewers and advertisers
The growing struggle between Twitter and Snapchat over live TV engagement – and the valuable advertising revenue which it brings – is most evident in the recent MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs).
Both the companies provided users with exclusive content live (or in almost real time) and struck deals with the same brands or similar kinds of advertisers anxious to reach a young demographic.
Twitter’s VMA coverage showed content via two platforms. Its Amplify system let users see short video clips, with associated ads and tweets, in almost real time. Its Periscope system streamed live, branded video from the VMAs. Advertisers included Taco Bell, P&G’s CoverGirl, Verizon, Pepsi and Trojan.
MTV used Periscope to livestream a pre-show concert sponsored by Taco Bell and incorporating six-second pre-roll ads. Actress Vanessa Hudgens hosted Verizon’s livestream from the red carpet and backstage. Both Taco Bell and Verizon bought Twitter Promoted Tweets to encourage people to view.
The 2015 VMAs became the most-tweeted awards show of all time, generating 21.4 million tweets, almost double the 12.6 million of 2014, partly thanks to Kanye West announcing he would run for president in 2020.
Yet at the same time, Snapchat’s VMA coverage was a genuine alternative, for viewers and brands alike.
The content comprised a Live Story about the event. This format takes photos and videos from people attending an event (including backstage and on the red carpet) for the Snapchat editorial team to curate into a multimedia story. This is broadcast to Snapchat users to view on their mobiles and it is regularly updated during the course of the event.
Snapchat is now creating Live Stories on a regular basis for live TV programming, such as the Grammys, Golden Globes and Teen Choice Awards. The revenue from major brand and entertainment advertisers, including Coke, P&G and Universal, is typically split between Snapchat and the broadcaster.
For the VMAs, Snapchat offered prospective advertisers four 10-second slots in the VMA Live Story, which were taken up by Taco Bell, Verizon, American Legacy and CoverGirl. Three of the four were also advertisers on Twitter’s Periscope.
Twitter no longer has the live TV engagement space all to itself. Snapchat is now a serious competitor.
How does the Twitter-Snapchat Social TV rivalry shape up?
The battle over live Social TV engagement is essentially a battle between two mobile media formats.
Both Snapchat and Twitter are viewed on mobile devices, based on user-generated content and updated either in real-time (Twitter) or frequently (Snapchat), which keeps viewers hooked for fear of missing out. The crucial differentiator at present is whether the content is curated by editors.
Snapchat’s Live Story: editor-produced, comprises multimedia photos and videos, and frequently updated, in near-real time.
The Twitter stream: an unedited real-time flow of text comments, which also integrates photos, Vines and autoplay videos. Periscope offers live streaming video.
From the perspective of TV partners and advertisers, the two formats provide complementary services which arguably do not much overlap.
However, from the perspective of the two companies, they are competing head-to-head to provide the best TV-related entertainment and engagement to their users. Success for either one ultimately means being the preferred partner for networks and brands, at the expense of the other.
The present differentiation between the two services is bound to narrow. Twitter’s forthcoming Project Lightning feature – event-based curated content – sounds much like the Live Story format. It is likely that Snapchat will itself launch a feature similar to Periscope, just as Facebook already has.
As Snapchat’s and Twitter’s offerings converge, the companies will inevitably end up competing even more over live TV and its associated ad revenues.
Twitter cannot afford to lose Social TV
Much of Twitter’s perceived value to advertisers (and therefore shareholders) is based on its ability to capture attention on a large scale and particularly during live televised events.
Twitter’s PR has over the years carefully built up a narrative which positions Twitter as the leader in Social TV engagement.
But if Snapchat is seen to be overtaking and even beating Twitter in this crucial sector, while attracting the Millennial demographic which advertisers most want to reach, where does that leave Twitter?
Twitter does still have a good range of sound monetization options available, such as the MoPub mobile ad server.
However, the real threat to Twitter is that Snapchat’s ability to engage mobile viewers will simply take away audiences, content owners and advertisers, no matter how well-developed are Twitter’s technology and platforms.
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