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Viceland to have India launch in Aug, says founder Shane Smith

MUMBAI: Digital media and broadcasting company Vice Media, which has formed a joint venture with Times Group for the Indian market, will launch its TV channel Viceland in August in the country.

The localised version of Vice India will launch in June. Besides digital, TV and over-the-top (OTT) platforms, the JV will also launch the Vice magazine in India.

Vice CEO and founder Shane SmithIn an interview to Times Group-owned financial daily The Economic Times, Vice co-founder and CEO Shane Smith said that the India launch of the product would be staggered. “We launch in late June. TV starts in August. Right now, we’re setting up translation capabilities. In late June editorial will be up, followed by video,” Smith said.

Vice content will also be subtitled in Hindi. The content will be dubbed in more languages moving forward.

According to Smith, the biggest difference between Vice and other media brands is the approach to news.

“We approach news, not from a breaking point of view but more from the documentary standpoint. We look at millennial passion points—environmental documentaries, human rights issues. We are going to do Vice-type stories and millennial-based content because that’s what we do. There’s no document that says we have to be edgy; we just believe in stories that are interesting and in being good storytellers,” he stated.

Talking about the plans for the Indian market, Smith said, “We plan to do in India what we have done in all the countries we have already rolled out in—we are going to do a TV network with the Times Group, mobile and online platforms and an OTT platform. We are also going to do some print because I’m an old print guy. We are going to weave them all together with this innovative monetisation.”

Besides making its content available in the Indian market, Vice will also work on creating localised content with Times, which can then be taken abroad. “We are not only going to pull in the best of our international content but will also be creating a lot of domestic content. We also have plans of taking content from India to the rest of the world. We have had a lot of success in taking Chinese creators to the world,” he said.

Smith also noted that monetisation is a big challenge for independent media companies as Facebook and Google wean away the lion’s share of the ad pie.

“Monetisation, in general, is difficult. We come from the digital world. Last year, Google and Facebook took 72 cents of every digital dollar in the world. This year, it’s supposed to be 80 cents. And then you add Snapchat in there. The air in the room for independent publishers is fast dissipating,”

He has placed his bets on native advertising to monetise content. “When we started native advertising, we learnt innovative monetisation. I think one of the things we do better than anybody else is wrapping brands around content. We believe if you can build an audience—and we certainly believe we can—we can have brands that will offset cost initially. We are not worried about sub-base models.”

Smith also revealed that advertising revenue and licensing are the big revenue streams for the company. “Our global networks in TV bring in some fees on advertising on their own. HBO is a half-a-billion-dollar deal for us. Then we sell online and mobile. About 98% of what we make is in house production so we can cut for online, mobile and TV. That’s our secret sauce,” he informed.