Vice to Expand Into TV Across Europe, Unveil U.S. Network "Shortly"

Vice Media Shane Smith - P 2014
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Vice Media Shane Smith - P 2014

"We know that there is a huge white space for millennials content, especially for terrestrial, here in Europe," CEO Shane Smith says in London.

Vice Media is finalizing deals to expand into television across Europe via its own or joint venture networks or programming blocks, CEO Shane Smith tells The Hollywood Reporter.

In what the media company for millennials describes as an aggressive move into TV in Europe in 2016, it looks to complement its online and mobile presence and audience.

‎"Basically what I'm doing is racing around," Smith says from a visit to London where Vice will hold an upfront event Friday evening. "In secret, we have been making about 32 TV series over the last year and a half. We are doing that for our network in America, which we will be announcing shortly. And then we started taking some of that content around Europe and that turned into sort of bidding wars for pan-European deals, regional deals and country-by-country deals. We are trying to navigate the morass of how you do telco deals simultaneous with terrestrial TV deals and keep growing our online platforms."

He didn't specify whether the reference to the U.S. network was one to H2, which Vice is scheduled to rebrand in a joint venture with A&E Networks, which owns a 10 percent stake in Vice. Targeted to launch early next year, it will feature Vice programming. The pact secured Vice its first stand-alone linear channel amid a growing portfolio of digital destinations.

Asked where in Europe Vice would get a TV presence, Smith says "in pretty much every market that we're in." He specifically mentioned a dozen markets, including the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands‎ and the Nordics. He says the company was in the final stages of picking partners and would likely announce them late in the year, with a TV rollout to start in the first quarter.

While he isn't ready to name partners yet, he says: "We're just finalizing the deals now. But it's going to be a cocktail of a couple of [mobile/telco] deals, deals with pan-European terrestrial players" and local players.‎"We looked at buying our own networks, we looked at forming joint ventures with existing networks, we looked at telcos and at telcos in conjunction with terrestrials‎, we looked at the larger pan-European companies."

"We know that there is a huge white space for millennials content, especially for terrestrial, here in Europe," Smith adds. What does his team mostly look for? Beyond looking for the best deal for Vice and its shareholders, he says it is also key to pick "the deals that will allow us, most importantly, the most freedom. Because we are not only making radically different content, but also doing radically different monetization plans such as show sponsorships. We want to, at least partly, reconstruct how TV is monetized." He says the company is particularly looking for sponsorship deals.

Asked about revenue goals, Smith says: "The goal is that our networks will actually be sold out upon launch for the next few years, which looks like we will be able to do."

Greece was a case study for Vice, the CEO explains. Vice Greece, the first joint venture between Vice and media company Antenna in southeast Europe, which launched in January 2014, turned profitable in 12 months. Antenna is also expected to be one of Vice's partners in other parts of Europe.

Does Vice still plan an IPO? "We're at a crux right now where our valuation has sort of priced out of the media market," Smith tells THR. "Nobody can really afford to buy us anymore" in the traditional media and entertainment space. "So you are left with one venue, which is to go public. We are definitely looking into hiring some banks and exploring the possibility."