Vice to Make Short-Form Series for ESPN in Expansive Deal

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Shane Smith

Viceland will also re-air films from ESPN's '30 for 30' series.

Vice has inked an expansive deal with ESPN that includes production of new short-form series for the sports cable network.

The deal, which will also see ESPN air many of Vice's properties across its linear and digital platforms, comes as Vice is courting young male viewers to its newly launched cable network, Viceland. Under the production and distribution pact, Vice Sports series including those from Carmelo Anthony's The Clubhouse will air on ESPN properties. It also gives Vice the rights to re-air films from ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series on Viceland. 

Further, Vice Sports and ESPN Films will collaborate to produce new series that will run across ESPN and Vice. Few details are available, but the companies say they are working on an animated series and that other short-form shows will look at "dominant athletes, fascinating characters and championship events" outside the mainstream sports world. 

Vice launched Viceland in February with backing from A+E and has made an agreement with Nielsen not to disclose ratings during its first six months. A distribution deal with ESPN, which remains a top destination for millennial men, especially on digital and mobile, could help to boost awareness of and interest in the new cable channel. 

Vice CEO Shane Smith grew up watching ESPN and said in a statement that he "came to love the brand and their content," continuing, "The amount of manly tears shed over various 30 for 30s throughout the years has been nothing short of embarrassing. To be teaming up with ESPN, creating brand new sports shows for them, and then showing 30 for 30 on Viceland is perhaps one of the favorite moments in my professional life."

ESPN president John Skipper added that "evoking manly tears from Shane Smith is no small task, and I take immense pride in that."

He continued: "Shane and the team at Vice do an extraordinary job presenting stories through their own, very unique lens — and working with them will help to bring a new perspective to our storytelling. I am confident that the content born out of this collaboration will be a win for fans of ESPN, Vice and storytelling in general. And I applaud Shane for understanding that television is the smartest path to worldwide leadership." 

Last year Vice received two separate investments of $200 million each from ESPN owner Disney. The media conglomerate also owns a stake in Vice via A+E Networks, its joint venture with Hearst. 

Among Viceland's programming slate is Vice World of Sports, which premiered April 27 and airs every Wednesday. Through the deal with ESPN, full episodes of the series will also air on ESPN properties. Digital cutdowns of other Viceland shows will also be available from ESPN following their first run on Viceland. 

In addition to building out its own cable network, Vice has been aggressive in making shows for other platforms. The edgy Brooklyn-based male network has aired four seasons of its HBO documentary series and is prepping a daily news show for the cable network. Meanwhile, it premiered music documentary The Score for Apple Music in March.