Whistle Buys Elisabeth Murdoch’s Snap-Backed Vertical Networks Studio

Whistle, a digital sports and entertainment media company, reached a deal to acquire Vertical Networks, a content studio focused on Snapchat original shows founded by Elisabeth Murdoch and backed by Snap.

The deal is the second acquisition for Whistle this year, following its purchase of L.A.-based studio New Form, under which that company’s investors — including Discovery, ITV, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer — became shareholders of Whistle.

Financial terms of Whistle’s deal for Vertical Networks were not disclosed. Under the pact, current stockholders of Vertical Networks — which include affiliates of Elisabeth Murdoch and Snap — have received equity shares in Whistle. Founded in 2014, originally called Whistle Sports, the New York-based company has raised over $100 million from investors including Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo, NBC Sports, Sky Sports, Liberty Global and Tegna.

Whistle currently has 12 shows on Snapchat, including two new Snap Originals, “Can’t Talk Now” and “Two Sides,” produced by New Form, as well as its series “No Days Off,” “Dunk League,” and “Whistle Worthy.”

With Vertical Networks — whose name alludes to the vertical orientation of video on Snapchat — Whistle will pick up additional Snapchat shows, including “Phone Swap,” now in its seventh season, and the Snapchat Publisher “Story Brother,” which has over 20 million subscribers.

Former Vertical Networks CEO Jesus Chavez, the Univision and Mitú exec who came on board last year to run the company, is not joining Whistle with the sale. Whistle said Jordan Hill, previously Vertical Networks’ VP of finance and operations, will be promoted to senior VP and general manager and report to Whistle president Michael Cohen. Vertical Networks has under 40 employees, most of whom will be joining Whistle.

“There’s a natural synergy between Whistle and Vertical Networks, and we are excited to welcome aboard their team,” Cohen said in a statement. “We both have mobile-first in our DNA, we invest in data-backed IP creation, and we produce relatable content optimized by platform to engage today’s audiences through both short and longer formats.”

Privately held Whistle claims that, through the acquisitions of Vertical Networks and New Form coupled with organic growth, the company is on track to more than double its revenue in 2019.

Hill and Cohen, along with New Form’s Kathleen Grace, will work together on the Vertical Networks content slate post-acquisition. Following the integration of Vertical period, Grace will concentrate on executive producer tasks including Snap original series “Two Sides” and “Can’t Talk Now”; Quibi’s untitled fashion documentary series; and sci-fi drama “Don’t Look Deeper” for Quibi starring Don Cheadle, Emily Mortimer and Helena Howard.

Vertical Networks, founded in 2016, is based in Santa Monica. In addition to “Phone Swap” and “Brother,” the company’s channels and formats include “Parental Guidance,” “Mindsy,” “Celebrity Binge Watch,” “Yes Theory” and “I Have a Secret.”

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