It appears the folks behind Vice Media aren’t content with simply reporting the news these days. The digital brand, known for its edgy, millennial-focused programming, has been making plenty of headlines itself in recent months as it continues its bold push into the linear world.
The latest move from the company was confirmed Nov. 3 in a statement announcing a joint venture with the A&E Networks to create its own 24-hour Vice-branded cable television channel. The new channel, which has been given the working title Viceland, will launch in early 2016 and distributed in approximately 70 million homes, a Vice rep confirmed in an email. It will feature hundreds of hours of new programming developed and produced in-house by Vice staff.
Director Spike Jonze, creative director with Vice, has been overseeing the development of the new channel, from show creation to production. He said in a statement that the idea behind Viceland was to express a strong point of view — something the Vice brand is known for.
“Our mission with the channel is not that different from what our mission is as a company: it’s us trying to understand the world we live in by producing pieces about things we’re curious about, or confused about, or that we think are funny,” he said.
Viceland will launch with a full slate of original primetime shows covering fashion, food, music, sports and lifestyle, geared at attracting a young, mainly male audience. Titles include Gaycation (with Ellen Page and Ian Daniel), Huang’s World (with Eddie Huang), Noisey (with Zach Goldbaum), Vice World Of Sports (with Sal Masekela), Black Market (with Michael K. Williams) and Weediquette (with Krishna Andavolu).
The company has said it developed content with an eye on linear, digital screens and mobile.
Shane Smith, VICE co-founder and CEO, said in a statement that the channel launch is “the next step in the evolution of our brand and the first step in our global rollout of networks around the world.”
A Vice linear channel has been rumored to launch on A&E ever since the Disney-owned network bought a 10% stake in the digital media company. That deal, worth $250 million, was finalized in August 2014, with Shane Smith, Vice CEO, telling London’s Financial Times at the time that the money “gives us a war chest for another three years of dramatic growth.”
Smith’s projections appear now to be coming to pass: Vice is reportedly on track this year to make nearly $1 billion and Smith has been very public in his company’s efforts to expand the Vice brand into Europe. In an interview with The Guardian in October, Smith said the company was in talks with several digital and linear players to launch upwards of 12 channels in the European continent over the next 12 to 19 months. Among the companies said to be at the table are Netflix, ITV, Channel 4, Amazon, Sky and Discovery.
In an earlier interview in October with The Hollywood Reporter, Smith hinted broadly of a pending deal with an unspecified American network, noting that his company has developed 32 new TV series for that venture.
During Realscreen London earlier this month, Vice’s global head of content Alex Miller confirmed that the company will launch “another handful” of digital channels over the next year, and will also do more television projects, but that any potential partners have to be relevant for Vice’s audience in each market.
The company already has a linear network in Canada through a $100 million deal with Rogers Communications and a local outlet in Greece through a deal with broadcaster Antenna.
Vice was valued at more than $2.5 billion in 2014 following the investment from A&E, along with a similar transaction with Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV). In 2013, 21st Century Fox paid $70 million for a 5% stake in Vice.