Vice’s Pivot to Linear Television Makes It the Ultimate Media Rebel

Publisher is going against the grain

Vice is going all-in on linear TV.

While many media companies are pivoting to video for better or worse, Vice is maintaining its rebel status by doing something a little unexpected: pivoting to linear television.

In a panel today for Advertising Week titled “The Bad Guys and Girls Of Publishing,” Vice’s Andrew Smith, svp of advertising product and solutions, was asked what rules the company has broken and expects to break in the future.

“What rules haven’t we broken?” said Smith. “Our methods have changed the way we look at content production overall, and how to balance the organic, freewheeling side with forming some kind of process.”

He mentioned Vice’s move into linear television as an example of going against the grain in a rather surprising way.

“We were one of the first producers of successful long-form content on YouTube, and that made our footprint erupt,” he said. “And soon after that, we went into linear.”

Vice has had a partnership with HBO for over two years to distribute its semi-daily documentary-style news program, Vice News Tonight; Viceland, the company’s own cable channel, debuted in 2016 in partnership with A+E Networks and in different formats across Canada and the United States.

Smith also talked about the unique ways Vice chooses to differentiate its linear products from its competitors.

One is by selecting segments or clips from its HBO program and monetizing them by distributing them elsewhere online.

Another way Vice seizes audience and advertising opportunities is through its Viceland channel. That property has a lower ad load and creates native ad breaks between programs to keep viewers more engaged; earlier this year, it was ranked by iSpot as having TV’s “stickiest ads” with a 93.96 percent ad completion rate.

Beyond video, both digital and linear, Vice has looked to other publishing formats to see what rules it can continue to break. For Smith, that includes challenging what content can even be, especially branded content. That’s why Vice bought a bar and creates its own brand of beer in partnership with AB InBev.

“That’s a piece of native advertising in a can,” he said. “There are basically no rules.”