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Viceland: A New Television Organism
By: Corinne MacInnes
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Vice Media’s newest venture with A&E Network is Viceland, a 24-hour TV channel taking over the old A&E channel H2, a spinoff channel of A&E’s more popular History Channel. Viceland trailers were first released on Viceland’s website, VICELAND YouTube channel, and aired on A&E TV channels.

The first episodes were launched for Viceland’s eight new shows starting February 29.

Creative director Spike Jonze has two goals with Viceland: to create an “organism that’s alive,” as he puts it, and to establish a brand-new television strategy aimed specifically towards millennials.

With the range in Viceland’s shows, the intimacy, and the eclecticism, Jonze has largely succeeded in his first goal. Viceland shows cover largely misunderstood social and cultural subjects; however, the shows go beyond simply covering the informational base of these subjects. Instead they reveal themselves in a way that immerses the viewer into the community of the people occupying the world of each episode. The carefully chosen hosts subtly work their way into the circle of their subjects, from the Arkansas tent revival scene with Thomas Morton in Balls Deep: Tent Preachin’  to the youngest generation of Bloods and Kendrick Lamar’s crew in Compton with Zack Goldbaum in Noisy: Bompton.

With a Louis Theroux kind of approach to video journalism, Viceland hosts work to open the minds and eyes of the viewer to some of the most misjudged walks of life. Other shows like Flophouse and F*ck, That’s Delicious use a different reporting style, following their subjects around, filming their inner lives, and using the camera as tool and prompt for information in place of a concrete host.

With a more traditional reality TV style, Gaycation follows Ellen Page and Ian Daniels, well-known celebrity LGBQT activists, as they explore queer communities around the world.

Accomplishing the primary goal of Viceland is well under way for Jonze, but reaching millennial consumers on television has become an increasingly difficult feat. Social media, instant streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, and stardom on YouTube has been pulling younger generations away from tedious commercials, limited show airtime, and cable expenses tied to TV for years.

While other TV channels like truTV and TNT have been lightening advertisement content in an attempt to bring back millennials’ focus, their success in attracting young audiences is limited. Viceland general manager Guy Slattery believes that Viceland has an advantage in this area over already-established TV channels.

Because Viceland started from the bottom up, creating a business model based on its relationships with a small roster of sponsors and launch partners maintaining existing relationships with Vice, the ad times during shows will be less than half of what other channels air (only 8-10 minutes, rather than 16 or more).

Not only will Viceland run fewer ads, the ads they do run will throw out the 30-second format of most TV ads. Their ads will instead be versatile in length, focusing mostly on native ads and creating a custom Viceland ad-environment.

The Viceland television ad model is set, and the shows are versatile, featuring material that is quality and unique. Jonze and Slattery’s initial goals are well in motion, but the real test of this project will come six-months from now with Viceland’s first rating report revealing whether the channel can bring millennials back to television, or whether it will be just another TV channel to lose to the vast powers of the worldwide web.

   

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About the Author

Corinne MacInnes grew up in Albion, MI. She attended Kalamazoo College and graduated in 2015 with a B.F.A. and concentrations in Spanish, English, and Art History under her belt. Today she works from Chicago doing freelance writing, creative writing, and event planning

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