Rogers pulls the plug on Viceland

The news was a long time coming, but was finally made official today: Rogers is ending its $100-million content deal with Vice Media and shutting down the Viceland television channel on March 31.

Vice, though it will regain control of its content, will face layoffs as a result. The recently formed union isn’t sure how many.

Vice still has other deals, notably with Rogers competitor Bell Media for Vice News Tonight on HBO and Much and a documentary deal with CTV’s W5. And of course it still has its online content.

Viceland Canada, formerly the Biography Channel, required significant startup investment after it launched on Feb. 29, 2016, which led to a $2.5-million loss in the 2015-16 broadcast year. In financial projections filed with the CRTC, Rogers expected a further $8-9 million loss each year for the next three years.

Presumably this means the licence for the channel would be turned in (that’s what Rogers is telling, though Vice is suggesting that Viceland could continue. Another possibility might be that Bell decides to take over the rights to Viceland and rebrand one of its zombie channels like Book Television or incorporate it into a related channel like Much or MTV/MTV2. Or someone could ask the CRTC for permission to allow the American Viceland to be distributed in Canada.

More coverage from the Globe and Mail and CBC News.

UPDATE (Jan. 27): The end of the Rogers-Vice deal means job losses. The Canadian Media Guild says 23 people were given layoff notices. The fact that they’re now in a union means they have some protections.

Nirvanna the Band the Show, one of the Canadian Viceland originals, will still be produced because its deal with Vice is still valid.

Meanwhile, InfoPresse asked V about its plans for a French Viceland. V has abandoned the idea of a full-time channel, but will still produce content with Vice.

UPDATE (Feb. 15): Rogers has indeed requested the CRTC revoke the licence for Viceland.

5 thoughts on “Rogers pulls the plug on Viceland

  1. Brett

    When the channel is fine I’m going to miss it. I actually watched it a few times a week because some of my favorite shows are on there. Hope something could be worked out like brining American feed here.

  2. dilbert

    100 million “burn rate” is pretty depressing. That is an awful lot of money to produce what is essentially good quality web content.

    Vice is effectively an amusing (but quirky and slanted) view of the internet universe. Trying to bottle that genie and turn it into normal 22 minutes plus ads style programming isn’t easy. Very few have succeeded – TMZ is a rare example, but they are smart enough to limit themselves to a syndicated program, and not a whole channel.

    Vice’s content is pretty much all over the road, and that too makes it hard to attract an audience. A heavy mix of weed smokers, odd docu-selfies, and drag queens isn’t exactly mainstream stuff. In a universe where the mainstream networks are having a hard time keeping views, total weirdness is either genius or a big whiff. This certainly wasn’t genius.

    Well, perhaps it’s genius for Vice. It looks like their parting gift is pretty much everything. Unless I read it wrong, it looks like Rogers is literally walking away from it and handing Vice the key. The only thing they won’t have is the channel, at least not in it’s current form. But as you (and others) have mentioned, Bell has a few extremely lame cable channels that could be converted if they wanted.

    I think this deal may also be a good indication that “peak cable” is quickly fading. In years past, this channel would have been stuck in packages, rates would have increased, and they would have had a given subscriber base near a million. In the current world, that’s just not possible anymore. Consumers are looking to cut programming and not cost. I don’t think you will see the majors putting too much more money into anything that isn’t some kind of consolidation.


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