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Vice’s growth officer talks Viceland strategy (Q&A)

David Purdy says specialty channel meets advertiser demand

David Purdy says he spends one third of his time in Toronto, one third in Brooklyn and the other third in traffic – which may suggest just how international and widespread the Vice Media brand is becoming.

The company officially launched its Viceland speciality channel with Rogers on Monday, featuring a national three-month free preview and original Canadian series such as Abandoned, Cyberwar and Dead Set on Life.

 

 

Purdy, Vice’s international growth officer and a former Rogers exec, talked with Marketing about the company’s strategy for the channel at a pre-launch event in Toronto.

It seems like Vice is treating Canada and the U.S. as a bit of a testing ground for Viceland. Is that right?

The Rogers partnership is a really cool partnership in that it allowed us to build out a local business, and it’s actually become the prototype for what we want to do around the world. What we like it about it is that it’s a sort of four-legged stool: we have a network, Viceland; we have a studio; a robust digital business and a big telecom sponsorship. If you look at France, England, Spain, Japan, Latin America, we have a studio in each location with a big telecom sponsor. It gives us a real circle of goodness.

How does that circle work?

The over-the-air or speciality channel helps drive awareness of the Vice brand, which drives the digital business, which makes the telecom sponsorship more valuable. So it all works in concert. We produce content that we’re leveraging for Viceland, but it can also help populate our digital verticals, and the content we’re producing now in Toronto has mostly been bought by the U.S. networks. It’s a really good model.

I get excited because there’s stories coming out of Brazil, Spain, France, London, Paris, India – each one of them is producing a great show. So all of a sudden we have 12 fantastic shows.

Do you have any concerns about Millennials being cord-cutters?

Well, right now we’re looking for traditional distribution partners when we first launch – cable and satellite TV – but for sure non-traditional distribution partners is something that you’d want to think about. But we’re actually hoping that we’ll be giving some of those cord-cutters a reason to come back.

How does this work from an advertiser perspective?

We think there’s growth. The question we get sometimes is, why would you launch a TV channel in today’s day and age? The answer is that for us, it completes the circle and allows for us to get in a lot more homes, and allows us to bring in advertisers. There are a number of advertisers who would like to have traditional TV as part of their mix. And because of Viceland we’ve been having discussions with advertisers that, up to now, we haven’t been having.

Is there also a hope that non-Millennials will find this interesting too? After all, you’re covering things like ISIS, which is pretty newsworthy to almost anybody.

It ages down for sure, and that’s very attractive to advertisers. But it’s also about a state of mind. I’ve been in the TV business for a long time. What I used to get frustrated with is, for my own personal viewing, was the formulaic nature of a lot of the speciality channels. It was hard for me to tell the difference between one speciality channel and another. It’s the same redneck reality series of guys hunting gators in Louisiana, or doing dangerous jobs in Alaska or doing some sort of pawn business. That’s great and it works for a certain audience but for me, I need something different. I want something shocking that jars me.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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