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Now that Vice Media finally has a cable channel, the question is whether it can successfully transition from a Web-based distributor of short- and long-form content to a full-fledged linear programmer.
Vice, which is known for its news and documentary content targeted to educated, 18-to-34-year-old millennials, will take over A+E Networks outlet H2 in January with its new, tentatively titled Viceland network. Viceland promises to provide a new outlet for younger viewers seeking quality programming and for advertisers seeking new opportunities to reach that very elusive audience, which is viewing less and less linear content.
Original shows that already have been earmarked for the new network include such titles as Gaycation, with actress Ellen Page; Huang’s World, featuring comedian Eddie Huang; Noisey; Vice World of Sports; Black Market; and Weediquette.
Vice’s established ability to monetize its video programming factored into the A+E transaction. While A+E — which invested $250 million in Vice Media in August 2014 — will oversee technical operations and distribution for Viceland, it will work with Vice on ad sales and sponsorships for the 70 million-plus-subscriber channel. A+E Networks, a joint venture of The Walt Disney Co. and Hearst, also owns A&E, History, Lifetime, LMN and FYI.
“We will test new and innovative monetization strategies placing Viceland at the pointy tip of the spear of the rapidly changing terrain of TV advertising,” Vice CEO and co-founder Shane Smith said in a release about the channel deal.
The strategy may sound good in theory, but the industry may not be ready for such a radical change in operations.
“There’s always resistance to different approaches, particularly by established advertisers,” Bill Carroll, senior vice president and director of content strategy for Katz Media Group, said. “But over time, all of them come to the realization — especially if they’re trying to reach a certain segment of the market — that they have to go where those consumers are. There are advertisers that are targeting this younger, more educated demographic and are more willing to experiment in that way.”
Vice will almost certainly bring a younger viewer to H2, which during the third quarter had a median average age of 57. (For more on H2’s performance, see the Ratings Intelligence breakdown.)
HBO certainly has benefited from having the Vice brand on its network. The premium service’s Vice on HBO news and documentary program has averaged 897,000 viewers this year, up from 747,000 viewers in 2014 and 821,000 in its debut season, according to Nielsen live-plus-seven-day ratings.
“Vice has a bold voice and a distinctive model in the marketplace,” Nancy Dubuc, CEO of A+E Networks, said in the deal release. “This channel represents a strategic fit and a new direction for the future of our portfolio of media assets.”