Abu Dhabi Media Summit: Vice Media to Launch 24-Hour Online News Network

CEO Shane Smith says that traditional TV news has left young viewers disenfranchised and that Fox News was positioned "to the right of Hitler."

ABU DHABI -- Vice Media CEO Shane Smith said here Wednesday that the company behind Vice magazine, premium online video offers and other media is looking to launch a 24-hour global online news network early next year.

In a session at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, he showed a promo video for it that used the working title Vice News and promised to feature young news people reporting from the field. Smith later signaled that instead of studio shows like on other networks, the new offer will use documentary-style "immersionism," which Vice has long employed in its online news videos.

The promo video ended with a voice-over saying: "Welcome to the future of news."

At least some content from the network is also expected to air on TV in 18 countries, such as Mexico, where Vice has a relationship with TV companies, Smith told THR. That will be in addition to the global online availability. On stage, Smith had mentioned that the network would air in 18 nations, but not provided further details on that comment.

Comparing traditional media organizations to a kindergarden soccer game that sees all players chasing a ball -- like news stories -- from the same spot to another spot, he argued that they have failed. "Everyone follows the same story," he said. That has left young viewers of Generation Y disenfranchised, even though they are interested in news.

News reports tend to cite how many people have died in a conflict zone that day. "What we want to say is why are they dying, what's happening, so we immerse ourselves into the story," Smith said.

"We are not partisan, we just press record." 

The video he showed cited the emergence of the Occupy movement and WikiLeaks as two signs for people's disappointment with the status quo in news and beyond.

Vice is in the first quarter also set to launch a news magazine on HBO, called Vice. Smith said shooting for it in recent months, his team has collected so much material that it had content left over that it will use on the online network.

"We didn't realize the level of propaganda that America, the land of the free, actually produces," Smith also said when asked about his stance on WikiLeaks and hacker group Anonymous. "I support the truth," Smith said. "And it is a shame that [that news media] have gotten so far from the truth, from investigation."

Mentioning specific U.S. news organizations, Smith argued that U.S. news organizations owned by big media conglomerates are too often worried about losing advertisers. They are all concerned about losing the likes of Budweiser as a sponsor, so "those people are liberal?," he said in questioning a conventional criticism of the news media in the U.S.

Provoking further, he also suggested that Fox News was "sort of to the right of Hitler," while "everybody else, they try to be the anti-Fox, because Fox is leading in the ratings." And CNN is trying to be in the middle and losing the U.S. ratings battle, he said.

"If Vice is the news, then we are really in trouble," Smith concluded though. "Because we came up as a style mag. All we cared about was supermodels and denim."

Vice has expanded from a magazine brand to books, online video, music, live events, film, TV and other areas.

The session was moderated by THR's Georg Szalai.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai