A+E Network Set to Launch Vice Channel

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Shane Smith

The channel is expected to launch early next year in 70 million homes.

A+E Networks and Vice are set to officially announce Nov. 3, that they will collaborate on a cable channel set to take the place of A+E's H2. The deal comes as A+E has closed multiple carriage agreements, including with Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Negotiations have been ongoing since last spring. 

Direct TV had been a hold out. And then the company announced its intention to merge with AT&T. The merger gained FCC approval last summer, creating a distribution powerhouse with 26 million subscribers, more than Comcast with its 22 million. But late Monday, Direct TV-AT&T finalized a carriage deal with A+E, according to sources.

A+E Networks — which is owned by Hearst and Disney — last year took a $250 million, 10 percent stake in Vice with the intention of rebranding one of its channels. In exchange for another $200 million in capital from Disney, A+E will increase its stake in Vice by another 7 percent for a total equity stake of close to 20 percent.

A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc, who led the initial investment in Vice, has proven deft at rebranding networks and she has worked to diversify A+E’s content portfolio as media companies are launching over the top content channels. Vice is particularly attractive to traditional media companies because it attracts a young - and mostly male - demographic. Vice Media reached 61.2 million uniques in September across its suite of channels, according to Comscore. 

Vice, led by CEO Shane Smith, will have creative control of the channel, a sticking point that derailed Smith's talks with Time Warner to take over HLN. Spike Jonze will be creative director of the new channel, which will include a roster of unscripted series including Gaycation, hosted by actress and activist Ellen Page; a project featuring Kanye West; and foodie and rapper Action Bronson's F—, That's Delicious (currently on Vice’s digital food channel Munchies).

Vice lured numerous investors including venture capital firm Technology Crossover Ventures, which like A+E invested $250 million in 2014, while Fox took a 5 percent, $70 million stake in 2013. 

Meanwhile, Smith also is laying the groundwork for an aggressive expansion into Europe next year.