A+E Networks and Vice Media have closed a deal for a joint venture that will transition A+E Networks’ H2 into Viceland (working title), a 24-hour linear channel programmed and produced exclusively by Vice. Launching in early 2016, Viceland will be distributed in approximately 70 million homes, and will feature hundreds of hours of new lifestyle and documentary-style programming developed and produced entirely in-house by the youth-centric media brand and digital content studio. Oscar-winning writer/director Spike Jonze, a long-time Vice partner and creative director for the company, will be overseeing the development of the new channel, from show creation, to production, to brand identity.
The Vice-A+E Networks deal, which had been in the works for more than seven months, stems from A+E Networks’ August 2014 $250 million acquisition of a 10% stake in Vice Media, spearheaded by president and CEO Nancy Dubuc. I hear that as part of the deal for Viceland, A+E Networks has increased its stake in Vice Media to 20%. Separately, Disney, whose Disney-ABC division owns A+E Networks with Hearst, just made a $200 million investment in Vice Media. The Vice-A+E talks for the new channel had been tied to A+E Networks’ carriage negotiations with DirecTV, whose successful conclusion paved the way to the Viceland deal, securing the new channel’s wide distribution.
“Vice has a bold voice and a distinctive model in the marketplace,” said Dubuc. “This channel represents a strategic fit and a new direction for the future of our portfolio of media assets.”
Diversifying the A+E Networks portfolio and launching an in-house production studio had been Dubuc’s main priorities when she took over as CEO. The Vice deal for the rebranding of H2 follows another rebranding of an A+E channel whose identity previously had not been clearly defined, BIO, into FYI. Additionally, the company started A+E Studios.
Viceland will launch with a full slate of prime-time shows, including 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), Flophouse, Party Legends, Weediquette (with Krishna Andavolu), and more.
“It feels like most channels are just a collection of shows,” said Spike Jonze. “We wanted Vieland to be different, to feel like everything on there has a reason to exist and a strong point of view. 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. And if it doesn’t have a strong point of view then it shouldn’t be on this channel.”
The launch of Viceland is part with Vice’s explosive growth across online and mobile as it goes after Gen-Y-ers. Vice Media also has a deal with HBO, which has been expanded and extended through 2018. It focuses on news content and includes a daily Vice newscast as well as new seasons of the the Emmy-winning weekly documentary show and specials. Viceland also fulfills Vice co-founder and CEO Shane Smith’s ambition to have a Vice-branded cable channel.
“This network is the next step in the evolution of our brand and the first step in our global roll-out of networks around the world,” said Smith.
A+E Networks will oversee technical operations and distribution and will work with Vice on ad sales and sponsorships. Vice will also handle all marketing across all platforms. The shows on Viceland are expected to have smaller than normal ad load.
H2 will continue to operate internationally where it is distributed in over 68 territories. Launched in 1996 as a companion channel to History, H2 mainly has been re-purposing History programming, along with new episodes of the former History series and original specials.
Vice Media was advised on the transaction by the Paul Weiss law firm and Pursuit Advisory.