Canada's Rogers Communications Mulls Pulling Plug on Viceland (Report)

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The cable network switched from the Biography Channel to Viceland in February last year.

Canadian cable giant Rogers Communications is considering pulling its financial backing for the Viceland television channel that it operates in partnership with Vice Media, according to a report in Toronto's The Globe and Mail.

The 24-hour cable network that formerly served as the Biography Channel relaunched in February last year as part of a $100 million joint venture between Rogers and Vice Media to make and distribute mobile, web and TV content for Canadian and worldwide distribution. Brooklyn-based Vice Media simultaneously launched Viceland, which offers a range of male-centric lifestyle programming, in the U.S. as a joint venture with investor A+E Networks.

Andrea Goldstein, a spokeswoman for Rogers Media, a division of Rogers Communications, told The Hollywood Reporter in an email Wednesday that the cable and mobile giant would not comment "on rumours and speculation" about Viceland Canada after the G&M report. A Vice spokesman declined to comment.

Rogers owns a 70.1 percent stake in Viceland Canada, which is bleeding revenue and subscribers, according to the latest figures from the CRTC, the country's TV regulator. Viceland Canada posted a $2.49 million pre-tax loss in 2016, the last fiscal year measured, against a pre-tax profit of $236,938 in 2015, with overall revenue for the channel falling 14.1 percent from $6.36 million in 2015.

Rogers is understood to be looking to sell or shutter the loss-making TV network and is said to have given Vice Media warning that it wants out of the Canadianized version of the U.S. Viceland channel. 

Such a move raises questions over the future of Rogers’ Canadian partnership with Vice Media, a $100 million, three-year content production and distribution pact that Vice CEO Shane Smith and former Rogers CEO Guy Laurence unveiled in October 2014. At the time, Rogers looked to Vice Media to jointly produce mobile, web and TV content from a Toronto-based Vice Canada studio that is now in operation. Vice Media in Toronto has produced a host of Canadian-originated TV formats to air on the Viceland network internationally and mobile adaptations of Vice franchises.

The launch of a cable channel was considered a major coup for the brash, outspoken Smith, whose company for years toiled on the fringes of traditional media as a Montreal-based alternative magazine. Over the years, Smith has commanded investments from Fox, A+E and Disney to help him build up the media brand with the hopes of taking it public. The cable channel was seen as a key piece of Vice's growing media portfolio, though it has suffered from low ratings in its first two years in operation.

Vice has come under scrutiny in recent months in the wake of sexual harassment allegations that have torn through the entertainment and media industries. The Daily Beast published a report earlier this month that described a “toxic” work environment for women and included one former employee’s on-the-record allegations of sexual harassment by senior leadership. In response, Vice has suspended one of the employees named in the story, Jason Mojica. It has also established an all-female advisory board — which includes Gloria Steinem and is being led by attorney Roberta Kaplan — to make recommendations on changes that will improve workplace culture.

Natalie Jarvey contributed to this report.

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