How HBO Will Reimagine the Nightly Newscast

By A.J. Katz Comment

Nothing VICE does is typical. So its take on the evening news, produced for HBO, will seem peculiar at first. And that’s just fine with them.

VICE’s version of the nightly news promises to be “a modern, flexible-format news show that helps our audience understand the world,” says Josh Tyrangiel, evp of Content and News.

Tyrangiel, a veteran of print, digital and TV media, met with a small group of reporters at VICE HQ in Brooklyn Tuesday morning. The first bit of news about VICE News Tonight is that it’s being delayed two weeks. Originally set for launch Sept. 26, the 30-minute show will now launch October 10 so VICE and HBO can ensure the program’s touch-enabled technology is ready.

With a first airing on HBO’s linear channel at 7:30 p.m. weeknights, the program will be available on HBO GO, HBO NOW, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals. If viewers decide to watch on alternative devices, they can zero in on specific stories and segments via that touch-enabled technology. Yes, anyone watching the nightly newscast on a phone or tablet can learn more about a story by actually touching the screen. “We want people to engage with us, and we have tried to think about our audience with every choice we’ve made – from the kinds of stories we cover and the format in which we present them, to the platform on which they’ll be watching and how touch-enabled screens can enrich our storytelling,” says Tyrangiel.

VICE News Tonight will examine a variety of topics during the half-hour, including economics, U.S. policy & politics, civil rights and civil liberties, world news, climate, tech, and culture, both popular and global. The program will forego the traditional nightly newscast formula of having an anchor sitting at a desk reporting the news. It will instead have multiple on-air correspondents as well as voice-overs/narrations of stories. VICE has beefed up its correspondent corps with the hires of Ravi Somaiya, Nellie Bowles and Evan McMorris-Santoro. VICE has added more than two-dozen staffers, most in Brooklyn, but also at bureaus in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong and Dubai.

“Our audience will already have a general sense of the day’s headlines by the time 7:30 p.m. rolls around,” Tyrangiel admits. That being the case, VICE News Tonight will feature more long-form field pieces, as well as a robust use of animation, graphics and data visuals. But the show will have the capability to go live when a big breaking news story happens. “We want to keep our audience surprised,” says Tyrangiel.

And just who is VICE’s audience? Generally 18-49 year-olds, a demo that is increasingly not tuning into the evening news, and younger than those that do watch. NBC, CBS and ABC average a combined 22 million total viewers each night, but just 3.6 million are in the 18-49 demo. That’s 16 percent of the average total audience.

Because it airs on HBO, VICE News Tonight will not be ad-supported. Its TV ratings will be used internally to measure growth, and not to set advertising rates. That gives the show the freedom to experiment, which suits VICE just fine.