By Carlo Versano
Vice Media will launch on Monday night Vice Live, a two-hour primetime variety show on its VICELAND cable network, a seemingly anachronistic play from an insurgent company whose CEO once said of the media establishment: "I'm coming to eat their lunch."
But after years of runaway popular success, Vice found itself facing the same existential problems that have befallen the rest of the digital media business. It hired a new CEO last year and announced earlier this month it would lay off 10 percent of its staff as it sought to become profitable in an increasingly difficult advertising landscape.
In that respect, Vice Live makes a certain sense. The show will be broadcast live, but the live TV audience is only a piece of the equation. Doug Jossem, Vice's chief revenue officer, told Cheddar that the two hours of content, broadcast four times weekly, will serve as a "flywheel" for the brand's distribution, from social channels to OTT partners.
"This is something that we're going all in on," he said.
In her memo announcing layoffs, Vice's new CEO Nancy Dubuc said the company would re-focus on five main pillars as it shoulders the effects of an industry-wide revenue slowdown: its studio business, TV network, digital operation, newsroom, and its in-house creative agency. Jossem pointed to the recent buzzy Netflix ($NFLX) documentary about the disastrous Fyre Festival, which was produced by Vice, as an example of the company's diversifying content strategy. "Content is the core [of] our business," he said.
Vice has also dealt with high-profile defections on the talent side. Desus & Mero, the standout comedy show that started on Viceland, decamped to Showtime, which gave Vice an opening to try something different in primetime, Jossem said. Whether the lucrative millennial audience that Vice has cultivated will flock to a program that hearkens back the variety hours of the 50s and 60s is an open question ー one that many media observers will be watching.
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