MTV to Simulcast ‘Unlocking the Truth’ True-Crime Series Premiere Free on YouTube, Facebook Live

MTV Unlocking the Truth - Ryan Ferguson Eva Nagao
Courtesy of MTV

MTV is trying a new promotional stunt in a bid to hook audiences on its new docu-series: For the first time, the cabler will live-stream a show on Facebook Live and YouTube at the same time it airs on cable TV.

The Viacom-owned network’s true-crime series “Unlocking The Truth” premieres Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 11 p.m. ET/PT. MTV also will simulcast the episode on its Facebook page and YouTube channel starting at 11 p.m. Eastern, with replays available on both platforms after the show airs.

“We’re making this appointment viewing across screens,” said Matt McDonough, MTV senior director of digital strategy and fan engagement. “There’s the desire to watch something right now – to be the first of your group to see it.”

But sorry, cord-cutters: Only the premiere of the eight-episode series will be available free without a pay-TV subscription. MTV’s digital simulcast is really just a different spin on the free sampling strategy TV networks have long used to gin up interest in a program. The live-streams of “Unlocking the Truth” on Facebook Live and YouTube won’t carry ads; instead, viewers will see slates in the ad breaks that read, “‘Unlocking The Truth’ continues soon… stay right here.”

“Unlocking The Truth” is hosted by Ryan Ferguson, who at the age of 19 was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a murder committed in 2001 that he was later acquitted of with the help of attorney Kathleen Zellner — who is representing Steven Avery, the central figure in Netflix’s “Making a Murderer.” In “Unlocking The Truth,” Ferguson teams with Eva Nagao of the U. of Chicago Law School’s Exoneration Project to examine three cases of inmates who maintain they have been wrongfully convicted.

On MTV’s website, the “Unlocking the Truth” show page will include interactive timelines, photos and other info related to each case, optimized for mobile devices.

“If you’re a fan of the genre, you want to go online to find facts from the case. We want the expression of it online to be as robust or more robust than it is on TV,” McDonough said, noting that none of the three cases in the docu-series has been resolved.

Beyond the digital push, MTV is banking on the popularity of the true-crime genre to lure viewers. Documentary series including Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” HBO’s “The Jinx” and the Serial podcasts on public radio have each led to legal developments in the cases they’ve reopened.

“Unlocking the Truth” is executive produced by Michael Davies, Debbie DeMontreux, Adam Kassen, Stacey Altman Shepard and Andrew Jenks.

Pictured above: Eva Nagao and Ryan Ferguson in “Unlocking the Truth”