Vice Media CEO Shane Smith has been talking up European expansion plans in London ahead of the company’s digital upfront presentation in London tonight (October 23).
In an interview with The Guardian, Smith said he is in talks with a mix of traditional and digital players – including Netflix, ITV, Channel 4, Amazon, Sky, and Discovery among others – to launch a dozen channels in Europe over the next 12 to 19 months.
“There is a bit of a bidding war going on,” he said, adding that pan-European players have offered multi-territory deals. “In the UK there are potentially a number of partners. There are lots of deals on the table. It’s pretty fast and furious.”
“Is it better to do separate deals in each country, or a three or four country deal with one company,” he added. “Then we have to think do we want a joint venture, do we buy a network ourselves, or do we partner.”
Smith also said he has turned down offers from companies that want a stake in Vice’s European operation and wants to provide mobile, online and OTT services.
“The old-school TV guard pays lip service to doing everything but they don’t like simultaneous windows [with other partners or on other platforms],” he explained. “We are trying to navigate those waters.”
Smith also told The Hollywood Reporter that Vice is about to announce officially its plans to launch a linear network in America and has a programming pipeline of 32 shows that it has been producing in “secret.” He has also been shopping that same content around Europe.
Vice is reportedly planning to rebrand the U.S. cable network H2 as part of a joint venture with A+E Networks, which acquired a 10% stake of Vice Media for US$250 million last year. While the story has been making the rounds since the April upfronts, neither side has officially confirmed its veracity.
The company already has a linear network in Canada through a $100 million deal with Rogers Communications and a local outlet in Greece through a deal with broadcaster Antenna.
During Realscreen London earlier this month, Vice’s global head of content Alex Miller confirmed that the company will launch “another handful” of digital channels over the next year, and will also do more television projects, but that any potential partners have to be relevant for Vice’s audience in each market.
According to internal company documents seen by The New York Times, Vice is projected to make nearly US$1 billion this year.