Elisabeth Murdoch's Vertical Networks to Launch Snapchat Original Show 'Phone Swap' (Exclusive)

Courtesy of Vertical Networks
'Phone Swap'

The company’s male-focused Discover channel, Brother, has reached 1 billion monthly views, and now is expanding into show development with a reality dating series.

Last summer, a new channel, Brother, appeared on Snapchat’s Discover publisher platform. It began featuring a daily rotation of millennial male-focused articles and videos, and in the eight months since its launch it has quietly built up a large audience. 

Brother is the brainchild of Vertical Networks, a company established by Elisabeth Murdoch, the founder of Shine Group and the daughter of 21st Century Fox and New Corp. executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, to create content specifically for Snapchat. The conceit for the company, which sources say counts Snapchat as an investor, was to build a sort of Shine for the 21st century that would be focused on mobile-first content. 

Brother was phase one, an R&D factory to learn how to create a Snapchat-first brand. In March, it hit 1 billion monthly views, according to sources familiar with the company. Now, the company has established an in-house development team working on shows that will debut on Snapchat but could eventually travel to other platforms across the web and linear TV.

“Vertical is a mobile first content studio and our success in finding a significant and loyal audience for Brother has helped us to build a deep understanding of the Snapchat environment,” said Murdoch in a statement. “Brother’s engagement metrics and our deep analytics give us real insight into our audience’s viewing tastes and behaviors and mean we are incredibly well positioned to develop new content.”

Vertical’s first Snapchat show is reality dating series Phone Swap. Debuting soon on Snapchat Discover, the 12-episode series will show what happens when strangers swap phones before a blind date. Viewers will watch as they discover messages, photos and other information that will help them to decide whether they’d like to go on the date.

“It is exciting to start with Phone Swap, which was created in-house at Vertical, and we’ll be unveiling more shows both from our own team and also working with the best production partners,” continued Murdoch. Vertical, which is headquartered in London, has built up a 30-person production and editorial team in Venice just blocks from Snapchat’s headquarters as it ramps up its production efforts. 

Phone Swap will build on Snapchat’s original programming efforts. The messaging app, owned by the newly public Snap Inc., was quick to begin experimenting with original content for its Discover platform, which showcases a daily rotating selection of articles and videos from media partnerships including Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed, ESPN and CNN. Although it produces some in-house programming, including political series Good Luck America with host Peter Hamby, Snapchat has so far worked primarily with media partners such as BBC, NBC and ABC to produce original concepts and those based on existing television franchises, including The Voice and The Bachelor. Phone Swap is the third original dating concept that Snapchat has greenlighted in recent months, joining Viceland’s Hungry Hearts With Action Bronson and A+E’s Second Chance.

"Since launching its Brother publication on Snapchat last summer, Vertical has a built a growing and loyal audience,” said Snap vp content Nick Bell in a statement. “It makes perfect sense for them to start applying this expertise to producing original shows for Snapchat, starting with putting a totally different spin on a dating show.”