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VICE to launch digital service with ToI Group 1Q 2017

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MACAO: VICE Media, the Canadian-American digital media and broadcasting company, will be launching its digital services in India, as part of a slew of other product offerings, in association with Times of India Group in the first quarter of 2017, while actively exploring the option of starting its pay TV service under Viceland brand sometime in the near future.

“"We are working towards a launch of our digital offerings in Q1 of 2017 in India," VICE Media Co-President James Schwab told indiantelevision in an exclusive interview.

Schwab, who also went off to visit India to confabulate with his India partners this week, was in Macao to deliver a keynote at the CASBAA Convention 2016, which also saw a galaxy of other media industry stalwarts, including GroupM global boss Irwin Gotlieb; Bennett Pozil, Head of Corporate Banking & EVP, East West Bank; Chad Gutstein, CEO, Machinima; Avigail Gutman, Programme Director, Operational Security, Cisco; Nickhil Jakatdar, CEO & Founder, Vuclip; Basil Chua, CEO, AsiaMX; Dave Downey, CEO, INVIDI; Zaid Mohseni, COO, MOBY Group, apart from heads of Indian platform operators like Jagdish Kumar of Hathway and Tony D’Silva of the Hinduja Group.

Schwab, who announced VICE’s launch in Indonesia at the CASBAA Convention, said that India was an exciting market in Asia and that he’s looking at bringing the whole suite of company products in India, of course in association with the Indian partner.

Originally based in Montreal, Canada, VICE re-located to New York City in 2001. In 2014, VICE Media got injected by US$200 million investment (10 per cent equity) by American broadcasting company A&E Networks, a joint venture of The Walt Disney Company and Hearst Corporation. Disney made a second 10 per cent (US$200 million) investment in 2015. Known for some edgy content, VICE also has Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox as an investor.

VICE Media, according to Wikipedia, after starting with a magazine expanded primarily into youth and young adult-focused digital media, including online content verticals and related web series. The news division VICE News, a film production studio, and a record label are among other properties. In February 2016, VICE launched a cable television network in Canada and the United States, Viceland, which is a millennial-targeted network that draws upon the resources of the lifestyle-oriented verticals of the company.

Though India has foreign investment restriction in news ventures of a non-majority stake of 49 per cent, VICE Media feels that it would not hamper their news offerings in association with the Times of India Group. "VICE creates local content in various territories around the world, produced by local hosts, editors, and shooters. VICE looks at each market on an individual basis and makes sure that the content that airs in specific territories is content that young people in those territories care about," Schwab said.

The Indian market that is witnessing a slew of new product offerings to consumers on traditional and new technology platforms, including OTT, for VICE offers opportunities that could be monetised and exploited. And, as part of the strategy, the launch of pay TV service Viceland with local and foreign content too is in the pipeline.

"As we would like to be on all platforms, including digital, at some point of time we would look at launching our pay TV service too in India. But the launch won't be soon as we still are working on distribution strategies. We'd launch when we feel the product is right (for the Indian market). But we would like even Indian consumers to experience all our products,” Schwab said.

While speaking at the CASBAA Convention, he admitted that TV was a “powerful tool to reach audience(s) and revenue from subscription TV preserved the “quality of good content.”

With estimated revenues of US$ 915 million in 2015 and total assets worth about US$ 2.5 billion as on 2014, VICE Media is betting big on Asia-Pacific, including India. Partnership with the TOI Group in the form of two joint ventures is part of that strategy, which will witness creation of new local production studios with leading journalists and filmmakers hired for 24-hour local news and lifestyle programming.

“We would like to bring all our capabilities to Asia. However, before we enter a market, we think through the local market economics as we would like our businesses to be self- sustaining. Indonesia and India are great examples (of such strategies) as the population of young people is huge as is growth in mobile usage,” Schwab explained.

VICE also feels that the Indian market is economically viable for the company’s creative agency service despite presence of strong and existing global and domestic players. As VICE’s creative agency, Virtue, works closely with both brands and other media agencies to deliver for clients, Schwab said, “We believe there is interest (in India)...some of our global customers have evinced interest.

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