Musical.ly, an app for creating and sharing personal music videos, is in talks with media companies including Viacom Inc. and Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal to make original show programming, set to launch this summer, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company is looking for content that is participatory and interactive, instead of feeling heavily produced, the people said. Scouts for productions have been emphasizing ideas that may broaden Musical.ly’s appeal beyond music, such as comedy and sports, according to the people, who declined to be named because the product hasn’t yet launched.
Founded in Shanghai three years ago, Musical.ly exploded among U.S. tweens, attracting mainstream entertainers and spawning a roster of stars that have pulled in millions of followers. The app has more than 100 million “musers,” — or Musical.ly users in company lingo — around the world. People can filter, edit and broadcast short video clips using songs they choose. The startup has rolled out other products including live streaming app Live.ly, group video chat Squad, and video messaging app Pingpong.
It’s not the first social media company to dive into original programming. Facebook Inc., Snap Inc. and Twitter Inc. have also been in talks to bring shows to their platforms, investing more heavily in the medium this year in an effort to give their users content that they can’t get anywhere else. Facebook’s new video tab, which will highlight some exclusive content, is scheduled to go live this summer, too.
Musical.ly has already been working closely with traditional media companies. NBCUniversal’s Telemundo recently collaborated with Musical.ly for the 2017 Billboard Latin Music Awards, and is in talks with the app to develop more Hispanic-focused entertainment concepts. Meanwhile, Hearst’s Seventeen magazine recently announced it will make a slate of video series focused on fashion and beauty for Musical.ly.
NBCUniversal has been especially aggressive in pursuing digital media. It invested $500 million in Snap’s initial public offering, and has committed more than $1.5 billion to digital businesses in the last 18 months, including two separate $200 million investments in BuzzFeed, and a $200 million investment in Vox Media, the online publisher of the Verge, Eater and Recode. NBCUniversal owns the NBC broadcast network and cable networks like USA, Bravo and MSNBC.
Separately, Musical.ly will launch a feature in the coming days that will allow people to create their own face masks, similar to the lenses or filters used on Snapchat, one of the people said. The feature, called Face.ly, won’t be a messaging product; instead, it will be more like Bitmoji, which lets people design an animated avatar of themselves. It will eventually be spun out into a separate app, the person said.
Musical.ly has raised more than $100 million at about a half-billion-dollar valuation. Its backers include DCM Ventures, GGV Capital and Greylock Partners. Musical.ly didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment about the partnerships.