HBO Renews 'Vice' Series for Third Season, Vice CEO Tells NewFront Crowd
Vice Media's NewFront presentation in New York was every bit as irreverent and odd as the video content it showed to media buyers on Friday. And Shane Smith, the company's co-founder and CEO, wasn't shy about his opinions of the NewFronts.
"It's literally the craziest fucking audience in the world," he said, referring to the mix of curiosity seekers, press and media buyers in the audience. "Hopefully, a third of you are people who are going to give us money."
Vice's half-hour HBO show has been picked up for a third season, Mr. Smith told the audience. "HBO is going to give me shit" for announcing it, he added. (An HBO spokesman confirmed the news afterward.)
After the presentation, Mr. Smith told Ad Age that Vice was close to announcing a film production deal with a major studio, but declined to elaborate.
Mr. Smith wore a tuxedo and undone black bow tie to Friday's NewFront, Vice's installment in a series of pitches by digital publishers seeking TV ad budgets by imitating TV's upfronts. Thus far the digital videos on display at these presentations have largely failed to gain broad audiences. But Vice is perhaps an exception, with its nearly 7 million YouTube subscribers and an HBO show.
And YouTube is slated to promote the Vice Channel in a national ad campaign this summer, according to Eddy Moretti, Vice's executive creative director. "You will not be able to miss us," he said.
"We didn't need TV to validate" our efforts, Mr. Smith said, "but it has."
Compared with the highly choreographed presentations from companies like Yahoo and AOL, Vice's pitch seemed slapdash. But it also reflected the kind of authenticity the company's audience -- mainly young men -- has embraced.
"We didn't do a particularly good job," he admitted after the presentation, the first of two he would give to media buyers on Friday.
Vice, which began 20 years ago as a print magazine in Montreal, has emerged as a digital-video juggernaut with channels covering music, food and news, among many others.
On Friday, Mr. Moretti announced a new sports channel, Vice Sports, which would seek to avoid the "event coverage, manufactured story lines and tired clichés" of mainstream sports programs, with shows such as "Vice World of Sports."
He also highlighted the Vice News channel, as well as its food channel Munchies. From those channels, the company showed off "Fresh Off The Boat," a food and travel program featuring chef Eddie Huang, whom Mr. Smith called Vice's version of Anthony Bourdain; an unnamed show from its music channel "Noisy"; the roundtable show "Motherboard"; and "Toxic," a show that draws attention to environmental concerns.
Brands, Mr. Moretti noted, can buy sponsorships at the show or channel level.
It was Vice's first time out as part of the officially sanctioned NewFronts agenda, but it wasn't the company's first big pitch to a roomful of media buyers and marketers. In 2012, the company previewed its web video with the help of WPP, which owns a stake in Vice. Last year, 21st Century Fox invested $70 million for its own piece of the company, pushing the company's value to more than $1 billion. Its revenue is reportedly approaching $200 million, stemming from ad sales, creative services and distribution deals.