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Vice Goes Into Food Business With 'American Idol' Producer FremantleMedia

Site to Debut in Early April and Air Videos Online, on TV

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In early April Vice will debut a yet-unnamed food vertical with "American Idol" producer FremantleMedia. The brash digital-media company also has a food-related ad network on its menu.

Vice and FremantleMedia will jointly develop and produce "hundreds of hours of content" for the property, said Vice president Andrew Creighton. That content will skew heavily toward video but also feature articles and recipes. Vice will oversee how that content is distributed digitally, including an owned-and-operated site, a YouTube channel and eventually apps. And television production company FremantleMedia will secure deals to air its content on TV in the U.S. and internationally.

Chef Anthony Bourdain on Vice show 'Munchies'
Chef Anthony Bourdain on Vice show 'Munchies'

The new food site will mark Vice's ninth vertical, once the pending Vice News goes live in "a couple weeks," Mr. Creighton said. Originated as a print magazine in 1994, Vice has created an extensive property portfolio across traditional and digital media. Vice's business spans the flagship Vice.com; music, tech, art, fashion, dance and mixed martial arts sites; YouTube channels; an HBO series; and most recently a digital agency.

The food property is "a significant investment for both companies," Mr. Creighton said, noting that 50 to 60 people will staff the site. He declined to disclose the amount of each side's investment but said the two will split revenue with 70% going to Vice and 30% to FremantleMedia.

Much of that revenue will stem from advertising. Vice and FremantleMedia expect to have a number of advertising deals signed by the property's April launch. "We have some key brands that want to come on board, but we can't announce those right now," Mr. Creighton said.

Vice will lead the property's ad sales efforts but will team with Fremantle on "bigger brand partners." The site will run standard fare like preroll videos and display ads. But the real money will come from more bespoke ad products like new native ads that Mr. Creighton said will roll out across Vice's properties as well as show sponsorships that will be pitched during the MIPTV showcase event in April and Vice's Digital Content NewFronts presentation in May.

"Also we'll be creating an ad network, which is a content distribution and advertising network with key sites that we want to work with," Mr. Creighton said. "We've already acquired some of those sites that we're going to be working with on the ad network within the vertical."

Additionally Vice and FremantleMedia will develop content for various national and international food festivals.

Hipster food
FremantleMedia will evaluate the digital content for TV distribution in two ways. In some cases, it will take the videos as they are and maybe make some tweaks before airing on TV networks around the world. In others, the company will take a show or idea created for the digital property and produce it separately for TV. "We're certainly not waiting [to strike TV distribution deals]. We have some strong ideas that could quickly end up on TV," said Keith Hindle, CEO of FremantleMedia's digital and branded entertainment division, which was created last year.

While both Vice and FremantleMedia have relationships with 21st Century Fox -- the entertainment conglomerate has invested in Vice and airs Fremantle-produced "American Idol" -- the food-site partnership did not spring from the mutual relationship.

"I got drunk at a Vice upfront [presentation] two to three years ago -- everyone gets drunk at a Vice upfront -- and Andrew was on stage presenting to a large volume of advertisers. It was the first time I saw someone in digital media speak so eloquently to a room of advertisers," Mr. Hindle said.

Over the last two years, the companies sought ways to work together and agreed on food. Vice isn't entirely new to food-related content. The "food" section of Vice.com is the site's third-largest traffic destination, Mr. Creighton said. And Vice's online series "Munchies" has been streaming videos of famous chefs like Anthony Bourdain pigging out for three years.

Vice decided to spin food off into its own channel because "no one is really looking at why the food explosion happened [among Vice's primary audience of 18- to 32-year-olds]. I think there's a gaping hole that needs to be filled with programming for this audience," Mr. Creighton said.

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