Here’s How Viceland Plans to Lure Millennials Back to TV

Spike Jonze puts movie career on hold to oversee network

Viceland, which features shows like Weediquette, reached deals to expand into Asia. Viceland
Headshot of Jason Lynch

The conventional wisdom is that millennials are fleeing TV, but as usual, Vice is playing the role of disrupter. On Feb. 29, the company will take over History offshoot H2 and launch a new network called Viceland.

"As a company, to get this kind of production budget can still only be done in television," said Spike Jonze, Viceland's creative director, speaking at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

"The idea of a TV channel seems like a fun medium to explore and play with," said Jonze. "We're trying to make this organism that's alive. … You turn it on, and it comes into your house like water."

While the network was only announced in November, Jonze, who took the wraps off Viceland's programming slate and shared a long sizzle reel with reporters, said, "We've been working on it in our own little cave in Brooklyn, quietly, for the last year." 

"The channel is a collection of personal points of view," he said. "We're trying to make a channel that is personal, that is people trying to understand the world that we live in." Jonze said he's looking for shows from people who "have a point of view, have something we want to explore, something we believe in."

Viceland's series will premiere on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, said Jonze, who isn't adhering to a one-size-fits-all model for Viceland's programming slate. "Some are four episodes. Some are six. Some are eight. We're making everything based on what feels right," he said, adding that if some 30-minute shows warrant longer episodes, they could occasionally be expanded to an hour.

Jonze, who last directed Her in 2013, said he has put his directing career on hold to focus on Viceland full-time. "This is all I've been doing for the last year," he said, explaining that Viceland "is a different type of film for me."

These are among the shows that will make up Viceland's first two quarters:

  • Balls Deep, featuring Thomas Morton (who was a Vice intern 10 years ago) "hanging out with groups of people for four or five days," as he described it. Those groups include high school seniors from Gary, Ind., the week before graduation and gay "bears" in Provincetown, Mass.
  • Fashion Week International ("We're coming up with a better name for that," Jonze said) uses fashion as an entry point to talk about politics, women's issues and "under-reported cultural phenomenons," according to host Hailey Gates.
  • Gaycation from actress Ellen Page and her BFF, Ian Daniel, is "essentially a travel show" about LGBTQ communities and what it means to be LGBTQ all over the world, said Page, who in one episode confronts anti-gay presidential candidate Ted Cruz at an Iowa State Fair rally.
  • Huang's World in which chef and author Eddie Huang (whose book and life are the basis for ABC's Fresh Off the Boat) travels the world "exploring identity using food as an equalizer," he said.
  • Flophouse looks at up-and-coming comedians who live together in beat-up houses around the country.
  • F*ck That's Delicious follows New York rapper Action Bronson and his crew as they tour (and eat) around the world.
  • In Weediquette, Krisha Andavolu investigates the science, culture and economics of the marijuana culture as it goes mainstream. "Weed can open up stories of people's lives that are deeper than you ever think," said Andavolu.
  • Noisey is an original music documentary series in which correspondent Zach Goldbaum explores local music scenes around the world.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.