Lip-syncing social network Musical.ly is getting into original content, thanks to new deals with Viacom, NBCU and Hearst, which will bring short-form video series to the app. However, unlike the original videos found on Snapchat – an app that’s often the next step up for the tween-age Musical.ly audience – these shows are designed to be interactive.
That is, the shows encourage Musical.ly’s users – a group who’s already comfortable making and producing videos to share with friends – to post their own personal responses to the shows using hashtags.
The news was first reported by Variety, which also notes the new show will be free to watch, and don’t initially include any ads or other forms of monetization. Instead, they’re designed to test the waters for original content across the social network – and Musical.ly hasn’t paid its partners to produce the shows, either, the report says.
Musical.ly is something of an under-hyped social network, given its size and scale. The Shanghai-headquartered startup was valued at around $500 million last summer, when raising a $100 million round. Its app has been downloaded around 200 million times, and it said in December, 2016 that it has over 40 million monthly active users.
Those are sizable numbers for a social network who user base is almost entirely kids. (In fact, its appeal with children has it operating in a gray area when it comes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule – aka COPPA. Kids can be reached on the app, and are often under 13 because parents install it for them.)
The first two of the new original shows launched on Musical.ly today, where they’ll be shown at the top of the app’s “Trending” section for 24 hours.
One is a shortened version of Viacom/MTV’s “Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘N Out” comedy show, while the other is Seventeen’s “Fashion to DIY For.” The next two, MTV’s “Greatest Party Story Ever” and Seventeen’s “Seventeen in the City,” will hit on Saturday.
NBCUniversal, meanwhile, is planning an E! show “Crush,” focused on celebrity crushes. It also has plans for other shows from NBC Entertainment and Telemundo.
The shows, which will be only 2 to 4 minutes long, will also be available for Musical.ly users to respond to after their initial posting on the media companies’ own Musical.ly profiles. To respond, users can record their own reaction videos which will be linked to own a hashtag page in the app.
Separately, the company announced today a partnership between its live-streaming app Live.ly and Sweety High, a digital media company aimed at Gen Z girls. Sweety High is also launching video content – a series called “After the Bell” – in the Live.ly app. The series launched into beta in February, and now has an audience of 300K-400K weekly viewers, the company says.
Beyond original content and video series, the company has been quietly experimenting in other areas, as well, hoping to bring its growing user base to more social applications. Earlier this year, Musical.ly launched a video messaging app called Ping Pong on the App Store, which had followed a third video chat app called Squad.