EXCLUSIVE: Vice Studios is lining up a documentary about the cocaine epidemic in the UK for Viacom’s Channel 5 – the edgy media brand’s first external commission after it pivoted to a third-party production push last year. I understand the commercial broadcaster has ordered Cocaine: A British Epidemic, a three-part series that follows drug dealers, users and others in the front line of the drug business in the UK.
It marks the first third party order for Vice Studios UK, after Shane Smith’s firm launched the division to become a fully-fledged production unit. While it produces a Vice-branded news show for HBO in the U.S., that show is an exception and the company largely only produced content for its own linear channel Viceland and its various digital operations.
Vice restructured its business last year after receiving a $450M investment from private equity firm TPG. It comes after its linear channel Viceland has struggled to score ratings outside of the U.S. In the UK, one of its flagship markets, it has attracted low audiences as part of a deal with pay-TV operator Sky, while Canadian operator Rogers Media recently terminated its joint venture.
Cocaine: A British Epidemic, which follows the UK’s growing obsession with the drug, was ordered by Channel 5’s Factual Commissioning Editor Guy Davies and it is being exec produced by Kevin Sutcliffe, the former Channel 4 news chief who is Managing Director of Vice Studios UK and series produced and directed by Will Fairman, who has produced Vice docs including Gaycation, starring Ellen Page, Blackmarket with Michael K. Williams and theatrical doc Chemsex.
“This latest hard-hitting documentary series tackles another major issue affecting millions of people in Britain today. The use of cocaine has moved from elite party drug into the mainstream and many believe we’re in the grip of an epidemic. Vice Studios has found a way into this world and we’re thrilled to be working with them on this documentary series, presenting shocking new facts around the drug and its ever-growing popularity,” said Davies.
“Leaning on Vice UK’s long-standing reputation of producing unvarnished, access-based programming and hard-hitting journalism, Cocaine marks an ideal first third-party commission for VICE Studios, UK, as we look to create a broad range of impactful content for new audiences. In working with Channel 5, we’re excited to be unveiling fascinating and often shocking new insights into the drug’s distribution and usage, and explore how it affects all facets of UK society, spanning the rich, poor, old and young,” added Sutcliffe.