CANNES: Shane Smith is your typical journalist. He dresses in jeans and a T-shirt, even when he is delivering a keynote at the Grand Auditorium of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes during the currently ongoing MipTV. But Smith also heads a company Vice Media which is believed to be the next big thing to news TV journalism just as CNN was in its early days.
Vice has a valuation of $1.4 billion courtesy a multimillion dollar investment in his company by global media baron Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty First Century Fox which gave the latter a 5 per cent equity stake. Vice Media has its web site vice.com, its youtube channels, a magazine, a show on HBO, among many other initiatives.
During the course of an interview Smith was quite clear why he agreed to the Fox deal.
Said he: “It is impossible to become an international media brand on your own. There’s carriage issues, there’s legal issues, there’s a myriad of other things. if you look at ESPN, CNN and MTV, ESPN sold out to Disney, CNN to Time Warner, and MTV Viacom. We wanted to stay independent. Fox gave us the entrée into India with Star, entrée into Europe with Sky, film with Twentieth Century Fox. They helped us to get into all those territories. Yet at the same time it is a sub five per cent investment. We own the company, we run the company, 80 per cent of it, and I own 95 per cent of the board. It’s a way of staying independent, yet becoming that fifth media brand.”
Smith stated that CNN, ESPN and MTV belong to another era – they were the benchmarks of the cable TV revolution. And they are not the business role models for today. “In the world of online, if you look at some of the numbers, if you look at what we can do internationally and how you can reach people. You know I am not going to be the next CNN. I am not going to be the next ESPN. I am not going to be the next MTV. I am going to be 10X CNN, 10X MTV and 10X ESPN,” he opined quite confidently. ”Because the numbers now in terms of the video views are now in the billions. That’s the disruption, that’s the revolution.”
Smith was in Cannes to launch his online food channel joint venture with Fremantle Media called Munchies. The channel is slated to have more than 100 hours of short form clips, half hour shows and hour long shows. Targeted at Gen Y, Smith expects munchies.tv to generate hundreds of millions of views this year from the current 50 million views its food shows on You tube generate. Munchies’ initial slate of shows includes Fresh Off The Boat, Being Frank, Girl Eats Food, Chef’s Night Out and F*ck, That’s Delicious
The goateed journo turned media-preneur is quite sanguine that his company will do revenues of about $500 million by end 2014, almost three times its 2012 revenues of $170 million. And he is quite clear he will continue wearing both his journalist and CEO hats. Said he: “I think you if you want to make cars, you better love cars. You want to make shoes, you better love shoes. I love content. I am a content company. A, I am not going to send a reporter somewhere where I am not going to go myself. B, I have to know every piece of content, that is to be made. How do we shoot it, how doe we edit it, how do we put it out, how do we activate it. Otherwise I should not be running a content company. And since we are a content company, that’s what I do. And the other half of it is, try to make that work, trying to grow audience, try to make money.”
With an audience in excess of 15-20 million worldwide, and several language editions, Vice Media might well get there.