Viceland to Launch Its First Non-English Channel in France

Shane Smith - Getty-H 2016
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"There’s going to be a huge backlash and counterculture and a DIY punk resurgence and we will tap into that,” said CEO Shane Smith of Gen Y's reaction to the victory of Donald Trump.

Six months after launching in the U.S., Viceland will debut its first non-English channel in France on Nov. 23 after launching in the U.S., U.K, Canada and Australia.

The French version of Viceland will premiere three French-language shows: Census, an interview program that explores social issues; Franceland, in which staffers burst their Paris bubble and head into rural France in an RV; and Marseille, which explores the music scene in the southern port city.

The Shane Smith led media behemoth has invested heavily in France, mostly on a studio in Paris with 100 employees.

Smith noted that Franceland is an attempt to see a country that has distinct progressive urban and conservative rural perspectives, similar to the U.S.

“What’s happening here in France with the presidential election, you see that there’s a need for a voice that millennials trust in news culture,” said CEO Smith, comparing the political climate in France with that of the U.S. “As millennials grow and become more pissed off, we become a bigger voice for that generation.”

France will hold a presidential election next year in which one of the frontrunners is far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National party.

Spike Jonze, co-director of the channel, said the distinct Viceland voice will remain the same en Francais.

“We are not trying to moralize. We are really trying to document what’s happening and there is a bluntness to the style and a bluntness to the people making it. We are just trying to be honest and not trying to make bullshit,” said Jonze.

Smith compared the surprise victory of Donald Trump to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. “That started the American punk rock movement as a backlash, and I think there’s going to be a huge backlash and counterculture and a DIY punk resurgence and we will tap into that,” Smith told The Hollywood Reporter about the growth prospects of the youth-targeted channel in the current political climate.

He added that Trump's election will be a benefit for the channel as millennials become more politically active.

In an interview with French business newspaper Les Echos, Smith downplayed low ratings in the U.S. and the U.K., saying that the channels brought down the average age of viewers of the former H2 in the U.S., with an educated and diverse demographic, as well as upped engagement time. In the U.K., he says, ratings have climbed above MTV and will be at U.S. levels by the end of the year.

“Success does not happen overnight,” he told the paper.

“Gen Y this year became the largest demo in the world, they’re left out of the socioeconomic power, a lot of the voting power and definitely the media,” he told THR, adding that news channels failed in focusing on issues during this election with 24-hour chatter.

“You can’t see the forest for the trees,” he said. He also compared Trump's potential advisers to George W. Bush's reliance on a strong cabinet that pushed false evidence for the Iraq war.

“But that means that we in the media have a job to do and make sure that we don’t have another ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and invade countries because that is where the media has failed in the past and where these problems started.”