Snapchat to Show Live Video of NBC's Olympics Coverage

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Snapchat has a message for television broadcasters: We’re friends, not enemies.

The social-media app is preparing to launch a tool to let television networks pipe snippets of live broadcasts directly into Snapchat, starting this Saturday with NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The move could forge closer ties between traditional TV networks and Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc., which has sought to sweep up the ad dollars that broadcasters are losing as young people spend more time on smartphones.

Snap has so far struggled to capture those TV dollars and prove it can build a much bigger audience, though on Tuesday it said it had reignited growth in revenue and users for the first time as a publicly traded company. On Wednesday, Snap’s shares surged more than 40% to $19.75, its highest point in about eight months.

The deal with NBCUniversal—which invested $500 million in Snap during the IPO—is the latest example of Snap’s push to stock up on TV content. Snap in the past has struck deals to air short-form shows like NBC News’s “Stay Tuned,” E! Entertainment’s “Rundown” and a Snapchat version of ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Those tie-ups haven’t all gone smoothly. CNN canceled its daily Snapchat show late last year, for example, after determining that it was going to be hard to make money after upfront licensing payments went away.

Sporting events like the Olympics present an opportunity to capture a live audience and capitalize when people want to tune in to see a high-stakes moment in real-time, Snap says. NBC will broadcast two- to six-minute live segments of key moments in sports such as figure skating and skiing.

“We do believe that the best place to watch a live game and a live awards show is on television,” said Ben Schwerin, Snap’s vice president of partnerships. “But if we can show the one moment that matters most on Snapchat, we think we can create a complementary experience.”

Snap has made this pitch before, with newspapers, magazines and short-form TV shows. With live broadcasters, however, the courtship is more complicated: During Snap’s IPO roadshow last year, executives touted Snapchat as an alternative way for advertisers to reach millennials.

For NBCUniversal, the partnership with Snap gives it access to a young audience that advertisers crave. The approximately two-week event is a ratings and advertising bonanza, drawing millions of viewers in prime time. The company is shelling out $7.75 billion to air the Games from 2022 to 2032.

Maggie Suniewick, president of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, said 90% of the 35 million people who interacted with NBC’s videos during the Rio Olympics on Snapchat were under the age of 35. “To me, that barked ‘Oh, this generation does care about the Olympics,’” Ms. Suniewick said. “That lit a fire that there was a huge opportunity here.”

NBCUniversal is also putting two Olympics-themed short-format shows on Snapchat about snowboarding athletes and Team USA competitors, as well as photo and video montages from the games using NBC content that BuzzFeed will help produce.

NBC and Snap will share the revenue for this produced content. An NBC Sports spokesman said the company expected revenue from the deal to be in the tens of millions of dollars. They have so far sold ads to more than 20 brands.

NBC’s live video on Snapchat won’t include advertising, but Snap says it may monetize broadcasts in the future. NBCUniversal is betting the feature will draw viewers and make the broadcast more valuable, said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics.

“We’re monetizing the Olympic audience on Snapchat,” Mr. Zenkel said. “This is another vehicle to drive consumption and interest on that platform.”

Write to Georgia Wells at

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