The long-in-the-works deal between Vice Media and A+E Networks that would see A+E’s H2 channel rebranded and relaunched as Vice is headed into the final stretch, sources say. Word is an agreement could come as early as Tuesday. There has been rampant speculation over the past couple of weeks about the talks, which started more than seven months ago, reaching a conclusion. The rebranded Vice channel eyes a launch at the beginning of next year. I hear Oscar winner Spike Jonze, who serves as creative director of Vice Media, would work in the same capacity for the new channel. Reps for A+E and Vice could not be reached for comment.
The Vice-A+E Networks deal for H2 stems from the August 2014 $250 million deal, spearheaded by A+E Networks topper Nancy Dubuc, in which the company acquired a 10% stake in Vice Media. Vice co-founder Shane Smith had been pursuing a Vice-branded cable channel, eyeing Time Warner as a partner before that deal fell through, opening the door for A+E. The deal for H2’s transformation into Vice is said to involve A+E increasing its stake in the media company.
The Vice-A+E deal for H2 has been tied to A+E’s carriage talks with DirecTV. A+E Networks is a joint venture between Disney-ABC and Hearst, with Disney also rumored to be seeking an additional stake in Vice.
Vice’s target young male demo is considered a good fit for H2. Launched in 1996 as a companion channel to History, H2 mainly has been repurposing History programming, along with new episodes of the former History series and original specials. It is available in more than 71 million homes. This would be the second A+E Networks channel to be relaunched since Dubuc took over the company, following the rebranding of Bio as FYI.
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.