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Inside Viceland’s linear launch

The millennial-friendly media co is banking on an ambitious new ad model, with plans to take the new channel to 12 more countries.
February 29, 2016

It’s game on for Viceland, the Vice Media TV channel that launched Feb. 29 in the U.S via A+E and Canada. The print-to-digital-to-linear company is working overtime to make sure it’s as multiplatform as possible, opening avenues to advertisers hungry to reach the millennial demo.

And while the U.S. and Canada are the first to get Viceland, David Purdy, chief international growth officer at Vice, told StreamDaily the goal is to launch the edgy new channel in 12 countries over the next 24 months.

The company is in “serious conversations” with providers in Europe, Asia and Latin America, he said, adding details on further international partnerships are expected from the company “soon.”

Rogers’ decision to partner with Vice, which will produce original series such as the music-focused NOISEY(s), pot docuseries Weediquette and entertainment review show Vice Guide to Film, is part of a larger brand-building strategy to reach out to the millennial target demo, known far and wide as cord-cutters and “cord0nevers” for their unwillingness to embrace traditional cable.

“In order to survive in the new world of television – whether its fragmentation, cord-cutting or pick and pay – we have to transform,” Colette Watson, VP of television and broadcast operations at Rogers Media, told  Media In CanadaStreamDaily‘s sister publication. “A way to survive is to be a strong brand. And Vice is a really strong brand for the demographic we want to reach, which is millennials.”

For Rogers cable customers, Viceland will be offered as part of a bundle alongside five other entertainment channels, including A&E, Bravo and Showcase. That package is valued at $5 for Rogers subscribers. It’s so far unclear how other distributors will package Viceland for their subscribers.

Purdy said the ideal cable package for Vice would be included in a “skinny TV bundle” costing $15 to 25 monthly, that gave subscribers — namely platform-fickle millennials — the potential to expand as they get older and find themselves in different stages of life.

“Personally I think there should be a very low-cost skinny TV bundle targeted toward millennials that would feature Vice, as well as a few other relevant channels,” he said. “And as people evolve, make a little more money, decide to spend more time at home, nest…you can add on to that. But starting small is really important.”

Another important priority for Purdy is eventually freeing customers from having to buy a traditional top-set box. “We (Vice) are excited about the non-traditional distribution opportunities,” he said. The channel already offers a TV Everywhere app for subscribers.

He added the plan is to eventually expand the channel to an OTT provider so younger viewers can watch the channel through a platform like XBox or Apple TV.

Vice is also banking on an ambitious ad model. Perhaps taking a queue from its digital roots, the company plans to upend the traditional ad model, both in the U.S. and Canada through native advertising in both Canada and the U.S.

In Canada, Vice Media is looking to move outside the 30-second spot by promoting native advertising produced through an in-house content studio designed to compliment its programming. In the U.S., media reports say the channel will offer reduced ad-load, looking to de-clutter the space for clients.

Native content is still modest in Canada, says Purdy – but Vice hopes to change that. “It’s measured in the millions, not in the tens of millions. There is an opportunity to grow that service.”

But Lindsey Talbot, managing director, trading at Maxus Canada, said that although the native content idea is unique and ambitious, the nature of its content could pose a risk to Viceland. “There’s no channel in Canada offering anything like it, but the content is pretty risque so it will limit which clients will be willing to work with it,” Talbot told Media in Canada, StreamDaily’s sister publication

Talbot estimated that 80% of Maxus’s clients would not find Viceland’s material appropriate.

With files from Sonya Fatah, Media In Canada, and Julianna Cummings, Playback

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