Viceland (stylized as VICELAND) is a multinational brand of television channel owned by Vice Media, which also provides programming. Viceland launched on February 29, 2016 with the simultaneous launch of two Viceland-branded cable channels; the American version (rebranded from H2) is a joint venture majority-owned by A&E Networks (who owns a 10% stake in Vice Media, alongside a separate 10% stake owned directly by A&E's co-owner Disney), while the Canadian version (rebranded from Bio) operates as a Category A-licensed specialty channel majority-owned by Rogers Media.
Operating under the creative direction of film director Spike Jonze, Viceland has a focus on lifestyle-oriented documentary and reality series aimed towards millennials, leveraging the resources of Vice's verticals with new original series, along with adaptations of and reruns of existing Vice web series. The network's launch programs featured programs hosted by existing Vice personalities such as Action Bronson and Thomas Morton, as well as notable figures such as Eddie Huang, Ellen Page, and Lance Bangs.
Vice's first foray into television was VBS.tv, an online video joint venture with Viacom's MTV Networks division (specifically, MTV and Logo TV. As part of the venture, MTV Networks had international television distribution rights for the content produced for VBS.tv, resulting in the creation of television specials that compiled content from the service (in the U.S., these aired on MTV2). Vice later produced a series for MTV, The Vice Guide to Everything. In 2013, Vice premiered a self-titled newsmagazine series for HBO. The following year, HBO's parent company Time Warner expressed interest in acquiring a stake in Vice, and proposed the possibility of Vice taking over its struggling cable news channel HLN, and revamping it as a millennial-focused service drawing from its own content. However, the deal fell through due to concerns regarding editorial control.
On August 29, 2014, A&E Networks--a joint venture of Hearst Corporation and The Walt Disney Company--acquired a 10% minority stake in Vice Media for $250 million. On October 30, 2014, Vice announced a CDN$100 million joint venture with Canadian media conglomerate Rogers Communications, to build a studio in Toronto's Liberty Village neighbourhood for producing original content. Rogers holds the minority 30% stake of the Vice Canada Studio in Toronto. Rogers also announced an intent to launch Vice-branded television and digital properties in Canada in 2015. Rogers CEO Guy Laurence described the proposed studio as "a powerhouse for Canadian digital content focused on 18- to 34-year-olds" which would be "exciting" and "provocative". In 2015, Rogers-owned television network City introduced Vice on City--an anthology series featuring short-form content produced by Vice's Canadian outlets and reporters. The Vice company had previously moved from Montreal to New York City due to difficulties in reaching a sufficient scale in Canada at the time. The company believed that Rogers' investment in Vice helped to better achieve these goals.
Viceland's programming consists primarily of lifestyle-oriented documentaries and reality series aimed towards millennials, directed in Vice's trademark style of "character-driven documentaries". Creative director Spike Jonze stated that his goal for Viceland was to make its lineup have "a reason to exist and a strong point of view", rather than be just a "collection of shows". Jonze explained that Viceland would continue to reflect Vice's core mission of "trying to understand the world we live in by producing pieces about things we're curious about or confused about or that we think are funny. And if it doesn't have a strong point of view, then it shouldn't be on this channel." Smith stated that the channel's main goal was "trying not to be shitty". Viceland will focus primarily on lifestyle content; Vice News content will remain largely exclusive to Vice's existing joint venture with HBO. Jonze stated that unlike the HBO content, Viceland would be "far from objective [reporting]".
On the Canadian content on the Canadian version of the channel, Vice co-founder Suroosh Alvi stated that Viceland would view its Canadian productions as being of global interest, as opposed to a regulatory obligation of little interest of non-Canadians; one-third of the network's first slate of original programming are Canadian productions from the new facility. Vice Media plans to enter into similar partnerships in international markets to further expand Viceland.The Walt Disney Company, who co-owns A&E Networks with Hearst Corporation, made a second 10% investment of $200 million in Vice Media to support the production of new programming.
Thirty different programs were developed for Viceland, including original series and expanded versions of existing Vice's web series. Original programs announced for the initial slate included Thomas Morton's Balls Deep, Flophouse-- a series where Lance Bangs follows the lives of up-and-coming comedians at underground stand-up events,Fuck, That's Delicious-- a television version of the food-oriented web series starring Action Bronson,Gaycation-- a series in which Ellen Page explores the LGBT cultures of different regions,Huang's World-- featuring Eddie Huang "exploring identity using food as an equalizer", King of the Road-- a series following skaters on Thrasher Magazine's annual scavenger hunt,States of Undress-- a series focusing on fashion weeks around the world, the music documentary series Noisey, Vice World of Sports, and Weediquette-- which focuses on the mainstream cannabis culture and industry. Blocks of existing short-form content from Vice (Vice Lab) are also featured, along with other, acquired content-- such as Friday-night airings of cult films accompanied by Vice Guide to Film documentaries on their directors. 10 of the 30 original programs planned were produced in Canada, including Cyberwar-- which focuses on cyberterrorism, and Dead Set on Life-- an expansion of Matty Matheson's food-oriented web series Keep It Canada.
A month after Viceland's initial launch, the network announced a second slate of shows, including Traveling the Stars: Action Bronson and Friends Watch 'Ancient Aliens'--a series in which Action Bronson watches episodes of Ancient Aliens with guests whilst smoking marijuana,Black Market-- a series in which Michael K. Williams explores underground economies around the world, the U.S. premieres of Cyberwar and Dead Set on Life,Party Legends-- a show about re-enactments of entertaining party stories,WOMAN-- a series in which Gloria Steinam features the lives of different women around the world, and VICE Does America-- which Abdullah Saeed and two Vice co-workers explore forgotten places of the world.
Jonze stated that Viceland's original programs will have varying lengths, stating that "some are four episodes. Some are six. Some are eight. We're making everything based on what feels right", and that extended episodes may be possible if warranted.
In June 2016, Shane Smith announced at the Cannes Lions Festival that Vice Media had reached deals with local broadcasters to expand into 44 countries with the launch of editorial properties and localized Viceland networks, including the Special Broadcasting Service (Australia), Econet Media (sub-Saharan Africa), The Times Group (India), Moby Media Group (Middle East), Multi Channels Asia (Southeast Asia), Sky Network Television (New Zealand), V Media Group (Canada, French-language),Ziggo (Netherlands) and Telenet (Belgium).
Vice holds a 49% minority stake and control of international expansions, except for Australia where the channel is 100% owned and operated by SBS.
Prior to launch day, Vice ran newspaper ads for Viceland, containing only the network's name and a phone number that, when called, invited viewers to contribute answers to questions. Pre-launch programming for Viceland began on February 29, 2016 at 5:00 a.m. ET in Canada (with Bar Talk, a one-hour special hosted by Vice Canada's head of content Patrick McGuire), and on the same day at 6:00 a.m. ET in the United States, broadcasting a countdown clock to the official launch later in the evening, accompanied by footage of Vice executives answering the viewer-contributed calls as voice mail. The first program following the countdown was the series premiere of Noisey, following hip-hop musician Kendrick Lamar.
A Canadian version of Viceland launched concurrently with the U.S. version as a rebranding of The Biography Channel, with Rogers Media as a managing partner. Separately, plans were made with V Media Group to create a channel in French Canada.
In November 2017, Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported that Rogers intended to cease providing funding to Viceland in early 2018, citing inside reports of low viewership and unprofitability. Representatives of both companies declined to comment. On January 22, 2018, Rogers and Vice jointly announced a termination of their partnership, with the Viceland channel to be discontinued on March 31, 2018. Vice will inherit complete ownership of the Toronto production studio, and the Vice website will stream Viceland's programming in Canada. Plans for a French-language channel were also dropped; V Media Group will feature Vice content in French on its channels.
On March 9, 2016, Vice Media announced that it would launch Viceland in the United Kingdom in September 2016 as part of a partnership with Sky plc, marking its first international launch. This includes carriage on its satellite and over-the-top Now TV services, access to Vice apps on Sky Q set-top boxes, and timed exclusivity for video-on-demand/Sky Go access. Sky will handle advertising sales for the channel.
Low ratings were reported of the British version of Viceland, where some programs premiered to viewership so low that they failed to register ratings. A Sky representative defended the channel, noting the steady growth and accolades of the U.S. network.
On November 15, 2016, Australian public broadcaster Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) re-launched its SBS2 channel as SBS Viceland. The re-branded channel features Viceland's programming and other newly commissioned content, alongside original news, entertainment, and sports programming carried over from its previous branding.