Are Snapchat Stories Getting More Viewers Than Network TV Shows?

We originally started this conversation on February 28th, 2015 and it is even more relevant today, in December 2019. As more and more people cut their cable or satellite and move to streaming apps, it comes as no surprise that popular social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube continue to gain in popular. We believe 2020 will be the year YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat start to surpass network television in terms of total viewers.

I was scrolling through my business Twitter account in which I only follow 35 users/businesses and I came across this gem – “You think Snapchat is for sexting, but it’s actually a giant threat to Google, Facebook, and TV”. Nice link-baity title but that is another article for another time. For quite some time, November 2013 to be exact, I have publicly stated that Snapchat is worth tens of billions of dollars:


The reason in which I felt Snapchat was worth so much was because of the direct adversing they could serve to their users in front of snaps, or disappearing photos. Snapchat has gone a completely different route when it comes to monetizing their product. Instead of using direct advertising in front of or behind snaps they are using Snapchat Stories.

In the link baity article mentioned above Business Insider states that 24.79 million people watched the story on the New York City Blizzard on January 26th, 2015. Let me put that into perspective for you. Here are some numbers:

  • Game of Thrones 2014 Season Finale – 7.1 million viewers
  • Ohio State vs Alabama CFB Playoff Game – 28.27 million viewers
  • The 2015 Academy Awards (Oscars) – 36.6 million viewers
  • The Walking Dead 2015 Midseason Premiere – 15.6 million viewers
  • The Voice Season 7 Finale – 12.88 million viewers
  • SNL 40th Anniversary TV Special – 26.5 million viewers

So what you are telling me is over three times as many people viewed a Snapchat Story than watched the 2014 Game of Thrones season finale? Twice as many people viewed this Snapchat Story than watched The Voice Season 7 finale? I call bullshit. There is no way.

What Business Insider and Snapchat is not telling you is these stories are updated throughout the day. While I don’t watch Snapchat Stories anymore I did watch some of the college football stories. Admittedly, I would check them out when I got up. Then, I would check again around noon and a few more times throughout the day leading up to the game. When all was said and done I watched the “same” Snapchat Story around six to eight times.

I would imagine many people watch stories even more to see if their short video made the cut. Let’s be conservative and say those interested watched the story five times. This means the number should be five times smaller than being reported. Instead of 24.79 million “viewers” the number is closer to 4.96 million viewers. This makes much more sense to me.

On the day of The Oscars there were 1.23 million tweets using the word “Oscars”. On that same day, there were 117,000 tweets mentioning Snapchat. If we do the math, Snapchat is getting about 1/10th of the exposure of the Oscars which would equate to 3.66 million views per Snapchat Story. This not that far from the 4.96 million I calculated for the NYC snow storm. I would also argue that a large percentage of the audience of The Oscars does not use Twitter. The Twitter audience is much more likely to use Snapchat.

Honestly, out of your group of friends and family members, how many mentioned watching the Oscars or the SNL 40th Anniversary show? Heck, almost all of my friends did. I couldn’t shut them up about it. When a major twist happens on Game of Thrones a large percentage of my friends will tell me about it even though I don’t watch the show. About 5% of my friends have Snapchat and maybe 2% of them even watch Snapchat Stories.

I know I am not in the coveted 18-24 age range but it takes much more than just this age range to get to numbers that large; 24.79 million?! Something that took me aback was this statement, “Spiegel said Snapchat’s mega-stories about college football games attracted larger audiences than the audiences that watched the same games on TV.” Get out of here. I am from the south and I know just how avid college football fans are. There is no way a larger audience watched a Snapchat Story than the actual game. ESPN paid $470 million to air the CFB Playoff (three games). These game had the following number of viewers:

  • Ohio State vs Alabama CFB Playoff Game – 28.27 million viewers
  • Oregon vs Florida State CFB Playoff Game – 28.16 million viewers
  • Ohio State vs Oregon Championship Game – 34.15 million viewers

I will do he math for you, that is a total of 90.58 million viewers for all three games. Obviously, many of these viewers are repeat viewers as they watched all three games. This means ESPN is paying $5.19 per viewer of the CFB Playoff. If Evan Spiegal is correct and his Snapchat Stories are getting so many viewers companies like Disney and News Corp should be paying about 128 MILLION dollars to advertise on one of these Snapchat Stories. Hell, they go on all day so they are worth much more than a three and a half hour football game huh?

If Snapchat is getting these types of numbers and they only have one advertiser per day they would be netting $3.84 BILLION per month; put that into your calculator for a valuation. These numbers are just stupid; there is absolutely no way. Anyone that crunches the numbers knows Snapchat is not getting 24.79 million viewers per Snapchat Story.

Snapchat is getting between three and five million views per popular Snapchat story in my estimate. This may be an aggressive estimation but it is still significantly lower than the 24.79 million number thrown out by Business Insider and other news sources. If you do the math you know there is no way that Snapchat Stories are received the exposure of Network TV shows. If they were, major advertisers would be spending several hundred million to get “into” these stories.

What do you think? Do you think Snapchat Stories are being watched by over 20 million people?

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So you have no evidence or basis for your rebuttal of the claims made by Snapchat other than what you think it should be? And you decided it would be a good idea to write an article about how you think Snapchat is lying based on nothing? Hmmm.