Shane Smith Evangelizes Vice Media's "Vibe" to Advertisers

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Shane Smith

The CEO plans to launch Viceland in 20 countries worldwide.

Things got a little weird at Vice's pitch to advertisers in New York on Friday afternoon. 

After starting almost an hour late, CEO Shane Smith — in typical fashion — began his talk in front of hundreds of brands and marketers by admitting that he "had a few ales." But he also brought some theatrics to this year's show, speaking to the crowd at Chelsea's Pier59 Studios from a dark stage: "Everybody's going, 'What's happening? Is there a technical glitch?' No." 

It turns out, Smith was laying down on the stage, a decision he said was attributable to him being a little tired. "Also, I want to get in the vibe because we're going to have a busy night," he explained.

While the pitch in front of advertisers can feel a bit like a dog-and-pony show, Smith summed it up a little differently. "I'd like to talk to you about Vice," he said. "Because that's what I do. I'm the Russian bear that shits on the floor for wooden nickels."

Less than three months ago, Vice launched Viceland, a cable network made up of the Brooklyn-based media company's signature edgy, documentary-style series. The channel, which premiered through a deal with A+E Networks that saw it replace H2 on the TV dial, is viewed as an ambitious and risky maneuver from the digital media darling, which has received big investments from A+E, Disney and 21st Century Fox in recent years. And it's still too soon to tell whether the bet will pay off. A+E has a deal with Nielsen that will keep ratings unreported for Viceland's first six months. 

But that didn't stop Smith from boasting about the company — with few numbers to back up his claims. He announced that the switch from H2 to Viceland was the fastest aging-down of a network in the history of TV. 

He also revealed plans to roll out up to 20 new TV networks worldwide over the next year, including upcoming launches in the U.K. and France. In making the announcement, Smith called Viceland the "fastest-growing network in the f—ing history of TV." 

In addition to the expansion of Vice's TV business, the company plans to launch six new digital channels, which will cover health, gaming, travel, LGBTQ issues, money and sustainability. 

Smith's quick presentation — it lasted all of 10 minutes — ended with the Montreal-based executive serenading the crowd and launching a series of performances featuring musical guests Pusha T, Charli XCX, Arcade Fire's Win Butler, Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, Kurt Vile and more.