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Snapchat launches Bitmoji TV: zany 4-min cartoons of your avatar


If you were the star of every show, would you watch more mobile television? Snapchat is betting that narcissism drives resonance for its new weekly videos that put you and your friends’ customizable Bitmoji avatars into a flurry of silly animated situations. Bitmoji TV premieres on Saturday morning, and it’s remarkably funny, exciting, and addictive. Think cartoon SNL on fast-forward with you playing a secret agent, a zombie president, or a Moonlympics athlete.

It’s a style of content only Snapchat could pull off that relies on ubiquitous personalized avatars only Snapchat owns. The company says 70% of its daily active users, or 147 million of its 210 million, have made themselves a Bitmoji. Snapchat bought Bitmoji’s parent company Bitstrips in 2016 for a steal at $62.5 million, and it’s paying off. Amidst a sea of premium video and haphazard Stories that blur together across streaming services and social apps, Snapchat finally found something Facebook can’t copy.

“We really believe that we have invented a new category of entertainment. It’s scripted but it’s personalized. You could take that in a million directions” says Bitmoji co-founder and CEO Ba Blackstock who wrote and directed Bitmoji TV. “First and foremost, I hope that everyone who watches this has kind of a mind blowing experience that they’ve never had before.”

Bitmoji TV, which TechCrunch was first to report Snapchat was building last month, will have its own Snapchat Show page where users can subscribe to get notifications and see new episodes on the Discover Page. Users can visit this page on mobile or tap and hold on the Snapcode below while pointing at it with the Snapchat camera to open Bitmoji TV.

The show is designed to be PG-13 with some bleeped out swearing and a little bloody violence. The shows are made out of Bitmoji’s Toronto office and are based on North American TV, film, and advertising. Each episode cuts away and back to a main story, with the first two centered around an America’s Best Bitmoji game show and a Mime Cops hostage negotiation. Interspersed are ‘channel flips’ between shorter single-gag clips that take your avatar into sit-coms, soap operas, action movies, and informercials.

The gags are ridiculous. At the basketball “Moonlympics”, a player jumps up for a dunk, but low gravity causes him to crash through the glass dome and suck all the other players into space. At Cannibal High, an school announcement says “Attention students, we’re all deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Vice Principal Schneider. To honor his legacy, today the cafeteria will be serving Vice Principal Schneider.”

You’re not alone it Bitmoji TV. There’ll be occassional celebrity guests like Randy Jackson, Andy Richter, and Jon Lovitz. But your co-star in these segments is the Bitmoji of whichever person you last interacted with on Snapchat. That lets you control whether you want your best friend, your significant other, or some rando alongside you. That decision will change the way you interpret the jokes and scenes. Your Bitmoji won’t talk, but their’s will.

Getting philosophical, Blackstock explains that “When you say words to me, it’s not just your words in a vacuum. They’re coming from you. You’re the medium . . . In any narrative fiction you learn about the characters, they have a back story, they have relationships that exist under the story that color it.” Who you make your supporting actor lends personal subtext that enriches each story. That’s one reason you can’t download or easily share clips of your version of Bitmoji TV, and Snap instead just lets you share a link to watch the real thing. Blackstock says it just doesn’t have the same effect if you’re not in the spotlight.