Vice Media partners with Times of India group for multiscreen & Viceland rollout

MUMBAI: So iconic youth brand Vice Media CEO Shane Smith is making good his commitment to enter the Indian market.

Shane had told in April this year that “India is one of the most important markets for Vice. What we needed was platform, capital, navigation of bureaucracy, waters of media. We went into China and it took us longer than it should have. For India we said if we went in our own, it would take a long time to get to the scale we needed to be. So we took our time looking at a bunch of joint venture partners.”

Amongst them was Star India, Reliance and The Times of India group. And Smith and his team have finally decided on Vice’s Indian partner: it is the Times of India group, which runs TimesNow, ET Now, MagicBricks Now, Movies Now, Zoom and RomedyNow,

Additionally, the prowess of the Vijay-Ajay Nair run OML also impressed him and Vice executive vice-president international & corporate development James Rosenstock. OML, has over the past year reportedly – according to sources in investor circles - also come into the Times of India fold with Paul Aiello and Rajesh Kamat of Emerald Media (and formerly CA Media), divesting their holding in favour of arguably India’s largest media firm.

Vice Media is partnering with the Times of India group to launch and distribute its Viceland channel in India, apart from producing digital and online, mobile, and TV content. Shane made the announcement at the Cannes Lions Festival earlier today.

The plan is to set up new production facilities – new studios in Mumbai - and to hire scores of journalists, film makers, editors et al to roll out the signature Vice content for the Indian market. Additionally, a core management team is to be put in place to keep a tab on content creation, keeping the local sensibilities in mind.

What is not clear at the time of writing what OML’s role, if any, is going to be in Viceland and in content creation for Vice's India foray. .

But what’s exciting Shane and his company, which has attracted investment to the tune of $700 million from 21st Century Fox and Disney, is the rollout of 4G services in India.

“The hottest thing is going to be growth of 4G in India, the mobile for young people. It’s not there now, but India has the youngest population. Cheaper smart phones from China and India. So we want to get in build our audience, make our mistakes. So that when traction hits, we are there,” says Shane.

Details of the joint venture were not available at the time of writing. Shane says that the Indian foray is the company's largest investment in a country overseas.

According to media reports, the joint venture will also spawn Vice Media's in-house creative agency as Virtue India, which will help deliver native and branded content to its swathe of advertising partners. Shane says that the creative agency is an important pivot of his India play. "It will help us offset some of our risk. Existing brands and new brands want us to produce content for them. We discuss brand strategy with them and speak and understand their language," he explains. "And they love what we do."

Shane announced a clutch of other partnerships during the Cannes Lions Festival which would see the debut of Viceland across 51 different territories and countries worldwide.

For West Asia and North Africa, Vice has signed on The Moby Group as its partner even as it is set to open local production offices in Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It has got into bed with Econet Media in sub-Saharan Africa to roll out Viceland into 17 countries including Ghana, Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda and Sierra Leone by end-2017.

It has lined up SBS Australia as its cohort for a free to air service for Aussie viewers, while Kiwis in New Zealand will be able to tune into Viceland as part of the basic tier on Sky. Vice Media has charged Singapore-based Multi Channels Asia with rolling out the channel into 18 territories in south east Asia with programming being developed by its in-house creative teams. The company's home base - as is well known - is Canada and it has inked an agreement with GroupeV Media to launch Viceland in the French speaking part of the country.

Shane and the Vice team sure know how to do things with a big bang. Now, the challenge for them will be to make the global push work and deliver both to the top line and the bottom line.

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