Mar 19, 2019

Scoop: Snap to debut new slate of original shows

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Snapchat is planning to launch a new slate of Originals — short, made-for-mobile shows — that appear in the Discover section of the Snapchat app, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. The shows will debut at Snap's invite-only Partner Summit on April 4.

Why it matters: Snapchat saw positive results from its first round of Originals, so it's investing more in its own scripted video for mobile.

Be smart: Scripted programming specifically for mobile is hard because it requires studios, actors and production teams to shoot and create video to be viewed vertically, rather than the traditional horizontal orientation of television screens.

  • Facebook has poured a lot of money into shows for Facebook Watch, but most of that content is still displayed and consumed horizontally, taking up less than half of the mobile screen.

The big picture: Snap is hosting a day-long, invite-only Partner Summit on April 4 in Los Angeles. After two years of rocky headlines following its March 2017 IPO, Snap heads into the Summit with some positive press behind it.

  • Snap stock jumped 12% last week on rare upgrades from Jefferies and BTIG's Rich Greenfield — mostly due to stabilized ad growth — and has seen its stock roughly double since its lowest point in December.
  • While Facebook struggles with privacy lawsuits and PR nightmares, Evan Spiegel looks prescient for his focus on ephemerality and private communication since the start of Snapchat.
  • The company has received positive press for its new chief business officer, Amazon advertising sales vet Jeremi Gorman, who told Adweek last week that she plans to overhaul Snapchat's ad business.

Don't forget: Snapchat recently lost its content chief Nick Bell, who departed to join startup incubator Human Ventures. The content production team is now led by Sean Mills.

What's next? Snap also plans to unveil a gaming platform, according to a Cheddar report on Friday. Tencent, one of China's biggest gaming companies, purchased a 10% stake in the company in 2017, which sources say have helped guide Snapchat's foray into gaming.

Our thought bubble: Snapchat is using its moments out of the spotlight to focus on creation and product development, which are arguably its greatest strengths.

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Trump's clemency spree

Rod Blagojevich in 2010. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump announced Tuesday that he commuted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption — as well as issuing full pardons for former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik and financier Michael Milken.

The big picture: The president's clemency spree largely benefitted white-collar criminals convicted of crimes like corruption, gambling fraud and racketeering, undercutting his message of "draining the swamp."

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Trump's improbable moonshot

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA is unlikely to meet its deadline of sending astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, even with a large influx of funding.

Why it matters: The Artemis mission to send people back to the Moon is the Trump administration's flagship space policy, and its aggressive, politically-motivated timeline is its hallmark.

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Justice Department says U.S. attorneys are reviewing Ukraine information

Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) Tuesday informing him that the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern District of New York and the Western District of Pennsylvania are reviewing "unsolicited" information from the public related to matters involving Ukraine.

Why it matters: Nadler had requested an explanation for the "intake process" that Attorney General Bill Barr stated had been set up in order to receive information that Rudy Giuliani had obtained about the Bidens in Ukraine.