Vice has come a long way from its humble origins as a free Montreal newspaper (The Voice) in 1994. On the weekend of the now billion-dollar media empire’s 20th anniversary, it was announced that Vice had partnered with Rogers in Canada (and, as of last spring, A&E in the U.S.) to launch a new TV network: Viceland.
Those who’ve seen Vice’s video work online and on American TV networks like HBO and IFC in recent years will have some idea of what’s to come from this new lifestyle, culture and current affairs channel — as with Vice’s digital content, launched a decade ago, the company’s creative director Spike Jonze (yes, the filmmaker) was involved in masterminding the channel’s spread. But according to Michael Kronish — the Montrealer who moved to Toronto last year to become executive vice president of Vice Canada Television and Digital — you can never expect more of the same from Vice.
“The programming on the network is going to be a total reflection of what Vice is with its brand online — it will make perfect sense,” he says, “but we’re always gonna be in full experimental mode. What Viceland is today will look very different in six months or a year down the road. The plan is to not be complacent, to not fall into the traps of just doing the same-old year after year, to push ourselves to think broadly and do things in different ways.”
Among the shows and the talent hitting the airwaves this week are Gaycation, a travel show hosted by actress Ellen Page and her bud Ian Daniel, Black Market With Michael K. Williams (with the renowned actor from The Wire, Boardwalk Empire etc), Dead Set on Life with Toronto chef Matty Matheson and F*ck That’s Delicious with controversial rapper and “bon vivant” Action Bronson.
Also coming to Viceland on the weekend is a show produced by Lewis Cohen in Montreal called The Vice Guide to Film, a series of half-hour documentaries about filmmakers followed by one of their films.
Though there are currently no plans for live broadcasts — don’t expect any news-network-style programming — the Toronto studio is being set up to go live if the mood strikes. And the Canadian Viceland will also be airing a nightly half-hour taped news program that will begin production for HBO in the months to come.
The network’s current schedule can be seen here, and luckily for those of us who subscribe to cable, the channel is free for three months — after that it will be available as part of our service providers’ new “pick and pay” (à la carte) system, which comes into effect today.
“We always want to get our content to the widest possible audience,” Kronish says. “Vice magazine has always been free; we’ve never had a paywall on any of our websites. It’s not in our DNA to make it hard for people to watch or read our content, so we’re really proud that we were able to get this channel up for free in Canada.
“We’re hoping to create a buzz with some great content,” he adds, “so people are just demanding that this is one of the things they want to have in their lives, like the way they’re choosing Netflix.” ■
To see where Videotron, Bell and other cable company subscribers can watch Viceland in Canada, click here.
For programming details, visit Viceland’s website, here.