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Moving onto a new Vice

Over the past decade, some of the more traditional TV channels and brands have tried their hand at the digital space. Often, they have struggled to gain traction: the ITV buyout of Friends Reunited was one clear example of this. Now, with Facebook and Google enjoying a joint virtual hegemony of the digital space, we may see more digital-led brands experimenting with offline platforms. This is highlighted by the launch of the Viceland station on 19th September. The new channel joins Blaze and Sky Sports Mix as the latest additions to the Sky Portfolio.

Considering Facebook and Google dominate 75% of the video and mobile space, Vice’s CEO Shane Smith expects further consolidation of ‘traditional’ media with digital brands. With the Facebook algorithm ever-changing, Smith has decided that he did not want to be held ‘hostage’. Therefore he is looking for other platforms to reach his audience. Viceland is part of a longer term strategy with 58 Vice TV stations set to launch across 15 different countries in the next 18 months.

Viceland’s launch does not only signify digital brands looking to traditional audience routes. It is also likely a consequence of BBC3 moving online, leaving a gap in the market for young adults. Recent Thinkbox research shows that the BBC lost almost a fifth of its young audience following the move this year. ITV and E4 both lapped up some of these losses and saw increased year-on-year (YoY) viewing figures. But, neither truly filled the gap for ‘edgy’ and alternative content.

All Response Media Viewpoint

Time will tell how Viceland performs from a ratings point of view. At present, it will only air to Sky subscribers and those watching with Now TV, which will likely impact its potential reach. Yet, as part of a wider strategy to move the Vice brand onto TV, it is a particularly interesting development. Vice is not only catering to an under-served audience, but also searching for alternative ways to challenge the monopolistic structures established by the big digital players – and for that they should be applauded. Hopefully, this shift will prompt more digital brands to consider similar strategies.

With a constant strain on TV ad inventory and the subsequent effect this has on pricing, we welcome the launch of new stations, and this is no different. We are especially drawn to stations that offer something different and cater to an audience that is not served on linear TV. Over the coming months, we will be testing Viceland (and Blaze and Sky Sports Mix) where relevant to do so in order to establish audience figures and determine responsiveness for our advertisers.