By Paul Sandle
LONDON Jan 26 Vice Media, the producer of video reportage targeting the so-called Generation Y of twentysomethings who do not watch much conventional television, is tying up with Greek television broadcaster Antenna Group.
Chief Executive Shane Smith said partnering with Antenna would enable Vice to launch digital channels with a slate of original programming covering news, culture, music, fashion and sports, geared towards Vice's 18 to 32-year-old core audience, faster than building them piecemeal.
"It's a test of a cookie cutter for a new way of expanding," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"If it works, it's going to be something that we roll out around the world, which means bigger partners and more traditional media partners."
Vice had previously expanded by launching its magazine in local markets and then building up video content and digital channels.
Smith said similar joint ventures could be set up in Southeast Asia, South America and Africa.
Vice started as a magazine covering punk subculture in Montreal in 1994, before expanding into online video, digital channels, film and television production and content produced for major brands such as clothing company North Face.
High-profile stunts, such as taking basketball player Denis Rodman to North Korea, have generated a buzz amongst the young people advertisers want to reach and the New-York based group says its online channels now get 75 million video views a month.
Its original, and often irreverent approach has also caught the eye of older media hands Martin Sorrell, the head of advertising group WPP, and Rupert Murdoch, whose companies have both invested. WPP invested an undisclosed amount in 2011, and Murdoch's 21 Century Fox paid $70 million for a 5 percent stake last August.
Smith said young people in Greece and its neighbours in southeast Europe had become politicised as they bore the brunt of the economic austerity, and they were hungry for a new type of media. Vice's journalism from the region has included a report on a beach party held by far right party Golden Dawn in 2013, and a documentary on the rising use in the country of the drug sisa, a methamphetamine.
"There are a lot of pissed off young people, they want a different take on things," he said.
"The kids are going crazy. In most of the countries we go into you have a large disenfranchised Gen Y. There's a changing of the guard in media and it's time to go into these markets."
The joint venture - terms have not been disclosed - will launch original programming online in the coming weeks, and several shows will receive television syndication in the first year, Vice said.
Advertising will be sold jointly, combining Antenna's local advertising contacts and Vice's relationships with global brands, Smith said.
Privately owned Antenna Group is a leading broadcaster with its network, better known as ANT1, second to MEGA, according to AGB Nielsen viewer ratings for November 2013. It is also a supplier of pay-TV operations for Greek communities abroad via its satellite channels, and operates free-to-air television channels in Serbia, Slovenia and Montenegro.
Chief Executive Theodore Kyriakou said Antenna and Vice made a formidable team. "This wide-ranging strategic partnership ensures that Vice will be a key element of our growth in the region," he said.