Snapchat, which lets users share photos and videos that disappear within seconds, has been growing at a steeper rate than its competitors. As the platform evolves, traditional media companies are taking notice.

Earlier this week, Snapchat announced a new, multi-year partnership with NBC Universal. As part of the deal, the network will create episodic "shows" to run on the photo and video-sharing platform. The flagship show -- set to debut on August 22nd -- is  called "The Voice on Snapchat," based on the NBC original series "The Voice."  The network suggested that "Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" might also be rendered onto the platform.

"From entertainment to news and sports, NBCUniversal has had an unparalleled lineup, and Snapchat is the perfect partner to help us reach millions of fans where they are every day," said Ron Lamprecht, NBC's executive VP of business development and digital distribution, in a statement. 

He also noted the network's plans to produce more original content for Snapchat, instead of re-purposing what has already appeared on television. There are many challenges in doing so, because content on Snapchat must be presented vertically.

"The idea that you're going to take a horizontal piece of content, even if it's great, and just crop it vertically isn't going to work," he explained in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The partnership comes as NBCUniversal, like many cable networks, weathers a continued decline in ratings.  "The Voice," for instance, clinched just 10.4 million viewers last spring, down by more than 23 percent from the previous year, according to Nielsen. Research has also found that more Millennials are cutting the cord with cable TV providers (NBC included), and opting instead for on-demand streaming services. Between 2011 and 2016, about 40 percent of Millennial-targeted television viewers migrated to streaming video and other activities, according to Nielsen's most recent "Total Audience Report."

Meanwhile, Snapchat has been cultivating partnerships with more than 20 major media companies, including CNN, Refinery29, and, most recently, Wall Street Journal. The deal allows them to publish content directly onto the service via their own "Discover" channels. Earlier this month, Snapchat announced a deal with the National Football League to push out news analysis and behind-the-scenes footage.

Although views on Snapchat don't translate into views for the media companies themselves, revenue for ads that run on the platform are split.

Analysts point out that cable networks stand to benefit greatly from working with Snapchat. "This is a really smart investment on their part, and it will definitely be a new way to think about content," says Jill Mailander, a social media strategist with Room 214. She suggests that brands have more potential to win over customers on Snapchat, as opposed to other social media sites, because the platform is not yet saturated with advertising. "It's a place where they can really be heard and have their content dominate."

It's also an attractive platform to Millennial users because photos and videos disappear within seconds, says Mailander, eliminating any emotional commitment. "It just totally clicks with that demographic," she says. "It's the nature of having ephemeral content that you don't have to put as much effort into it. You just take a 'Snap' of whatever is happening, and you don't have to worry about it."

Most recently valued at $16 billion, Snapchat is projected to grow its audience by more than 27 percent in 2016, reaching 58.6 million users, and surpassing rivals Twitter and Pinterest for the first time ever, according to data from eMarketer. By 2020, it expects to add another 26.9 million users.

Published on: Aug 11, 2016