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Snapchat Getting Murder-Mystery Scripted Series From Elisabeth Murdoch’s Vertical Networks (EXCLUSIVE)

‘Solve’ blends in gaming elements by letting viewers vote on who they think the killer is

Snapchat this week will debut scripted murder-mystery show “Solve,” from Elisabeth Murdoch’s Vertical Networks mobile-content studio, as a regular series on the platform.

The short-form show is set to premiere exclusively on Snapchat’s Discover page on Wednesday, May 16, with new episodes to hit every Wednesday and Saturday at 7 a.m. ET. “Solve” dramatizes a murder — inspired by a real-life case — and viewers play the role of detective to vote on who they think the killer is after seeing the evidence, before the real culprit is revealed (along with the results of the audience vote).

“It doesn’t feel like anything else you’ve seen,” said Vertical Networks CEO Tom Wright. “You feel as an audience member that you’re participating in the show,” he added — even though the votes by Snapchatters don’t affect the storyline’s dénouement.

“Solve” is produced by Vertical Networks’ newly created Interactive Studio Division, which is focused on combining video-game elements with premium video entertainment, Wright said.

Each edition of “Solve” (in episodes that run 3-4 minutes) is inspired by a real-life crime, with the episodes dramatizing the events and culminating with details about the original case. Vertical Networks has produced 10 episodes so far, and is currently casting another 40 roles for the next batch of shows. According to Wright, “Solve” later this year will feature celebrity guest writers, directors, and cameo appearances.

The launch of “Solve” as a regular series on Snapchat Discover comes after Vertical Networks piloted it as a four-part miniseries on Snapchat in February – a run that garnered a total of more than 10 million unique viewers. “It had weirdly high engagement and participation,” Wright said.

Wright confessed that he initially had “some nervousness” about producing 10 episodes per month, concerned that the team might run out of compelling true-crime stories. But there’s evidently no shortage of actual murders; Vertical has enlisted 15 different writers for the series.

Separately, another Snapchat Show is docu-series “True Crime/Uncovered,” produced by Condé Nast Entertainment, hosted by actress Samantha Miller.

Vertical Networks, launched in 2016, is majority-owned by Elisabeth Murdoch (daughter of Rupert) with a minority stake held by Snap. The 50-person company is based in Venice Beach, Calif.

Vertical’s Interactive Studio Division also produces “Mindsy,” an interactive Snapchat game of self-discovery inspired by the Japanese study of Kokology. According to Wright, the company plans to roll out standalone apps for “Solve” and “Mindsy” that will provide levels of personalization “that you probably won’t have on Snapchat or Facebook,” he said.

“We think ‘Solve,’ as a brand, will work in TV, books, podcasts, and other formats,” he said.

Vertical is profitable, according to Wright, but he declined to provide details of the company’s financials. In addition to monetizing its content on Snapchat and Facebook through ads and brand-integration deals, Vertical Networks has a strategy to take its intellectual property into other domains.

For example, Fox Broadcasting has bought a 15-episode half-hour adaptation of Vertical Networks’ “Phone Swap” reality dating show on Snapchat. The TV version of “Phone Swap,” to air on select Fox stations this summer, features strangers trading phones to see what they can discover about each other before deciding whether they want to go on a first date.

Vertical Networks other mobile-first channels and formats include “Brother,” “Celebrity Binge Watch,” “Yes Theory,” and “I Have a Secret.” The company produced six original shows last year and is targeting 10 for 2018, Wright said.

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