Snapchat’s most popular yet under-exploited feature is finally getting the spotlight in 2020. Starting in February with a global release, your customizable Bitmoji avatar will become the star of a full-motion cartoon series called Bitmoji TV. It’s a massive evolution for Bitmoji beyond the chat stickers and comic strip-style Stories, where they were being squandered to date.
Creating original in-house shows for its Discover section that can’t be copied could help Snapchat differentiate from the plethora of short-form video platforms out there, ranging from YouTube to Facebook Watch to TikTok. Bitmoji TV could also up the quality of Discover, which still feels like a tabloid magazine rack full of scantily clad women, gross-out imagery and other shocking content merely meant to catch the eye and draw a click.
With Bitmoji TV, your avatar and those of your friends will appear in regularly scheduled adventures ranging from playing the crew of Star Treky spaceships to being secret agents to falling in love with robots or becoming zombies. The trailer Snapchat released previews an animation style reminiscent of Netflix’s Big Mouth.
TechCrunch asked Snap for more details, including how long episodes will be, how often they’ll be released, whether they’ll include ads and if the company acquired anyone or brought on famous talent to produce the series. A Snap spokesperson declined to provide more details, but sent over this statement: “Bitmoji TV isn’t available in your network yet, but stay tuned for the global premiere soon!”
The Snapchat Show page for Bitmoji TV notes it is coming in February 2020. Users can visit here on mobile to subscribe to Bitmoji TV so it shows up prominently on their Discover page, or turn on notifications about its new content.
Snap realizes Bitmoji’s value
Snap has had a tough few years, as many of its core features have been ruthlessly copied by the Facebook family of apps. Instagram Stories killed Snap’s growth for years, and effectively stole the broadcast medium from its inventor. Facebook also ramped up it augmented reality selfie filters, added more ephemeral messaging features and launched Watch as a competitor to Snapchat Discover.
“TV” is actually a return to Bitmoji’s roots. The startup Bitstrips originally offered an app for customizing the face, hair, clothes and more of your avatar and then creating comic strips for them to appear in. Snap acquired Bitstrips back in 2016 for just $64.2 million — a steal not far off from Facebook snatching Instagram for less than a billion. The standalone Bitmoji app blew up as soon as Snapchat began offering the avatars as chat stickers. It had more than 330 million downloads as of April, according to Sensor Tower, despite Snapchat now letting you create your avatar in its main app.
Bitmoji TV could offer video that’s not only fun and snackable, but out of reach for competitors who don’t have a scaled avatar platform of their own. As with the recent launch of Snapchat Cameos, the company has realized that the most addictive experiences center on its users’ own faces. Snapchat turned the selfie into the future of communication. Bitmoji TV could make an animated recreation of your selfie into the future of content.
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