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Viceland: The TV Network of the Future?

June 6th, 2018   ||    by Melanie Brown

It’s rare these days for new networks to make their way onto the traditional television scene. In the era of “cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers,” most content creators opt for digital channels that progress to a streaming OTT option. But Viceland, the lifestyle- and reality-focused TV channel from Vice Media, broke its way into linear TV in 2016, and has been steadily growing its traditional-format audience ever since.

The video viewership trend in recent years has been shifting away from traditional and live TV and into internet-based streaming and time-shifted viewing options. As younger generations evolve with the newer and more personalized technology of online streaming content, traditional TV audiences have skewed much older, and their growth has stagnated. Traditional TV networks are finding they have to push content to OTT and streaming services to maintain their viewership and find new audiences.

Bucking the Trend

Viceland, however, expanded from its online content and successful web series into television programming (in partnership with Viacom’s MTV, as well as HBO), and then into its own television network. The media industry’s narrative generally goes in the opposite direction, and Viceland’s countermove somehow feels appropriate for an entity run by Vice, which is a brand constructed on a desire to subvert traditions.

With its documentary-style programming and focus on the sociocultural experiences of people worldwide, Viceland has proven its ability to attract a wide audience—but the network is also striving to be more than an entity. Viceland wants its viewers to know they’re being listened to, and that programming is being developed based on what they want to see.

Michele Beno, Viceland’s senior director of marketing, told The Drum at SXSW this year, “We’re having a conversation with our audience, and we want them to feel like they are a part of us.”

The Model of the Future?

TV programmers as a whole can learn something from this audience connection when it comes to current and potential viewers. Networks have ideas of who their audiences are; they aim to air programming that will reach their current audience while also attracting new viewers. They spend a ton of research dollars figuring out what the next new program will be and who it will reach. But Viceland’s grassroots approach to communicating with its audience is proving to be a success. The network’s social media pages are hubs for communication between the brand and its audience, and the fact that its linear audience keeps growing is a sign its practice may be the answer to some of the traditional TV networks’ audience troubles.

While Vice and its online and streaming presence are largely geared toward millennials, the shift to linear television and a wider range of programming based on audience feedback is expanding Viceland’s audience into the older set as well. The average age of the network’s viewership is about 40, significantly younger than most other networks, whose viewership hovers in the 55-65 age range. This means Viceland is not only rolling over its viewership from digital to television, but accruing more viewers through its linear outlet as well.

The Viceland model is one to watch. Given its success as a fledgling network over the past two years, it could anticipate one way linear TV might evolve and flourish alongside the growth of the digital content ecosystem.

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