Rogers, Vice Media strike $100M deal to create Canadian content

Rogers Communications continues to build its digital presence with a new $100-million partnership with Vice Media that will create Canadian content.

Rogers steps up its digital game with Vice content for mobile, internet and TV

Director Spike Jonze, left, films Shane Smith, centre, as he interviews a Yemeni man, for MTV series The Vice Guide to Everything. Vice Media has a $100-million deal to build a studio in Toronto and provide content to Rogers Communications. (MTV/Associated Press)

Rogers Communications continues to build its digital presence with a new $100-million partnership with Vice Media that will create Canadian content.

Rogers and Vice have agreed to build a Toronto studio to create news, drama, documentaries and programming aimed at the 18 to 34 viewer and created with mobile and internet viewing in mind.

The companies say the Vice Canada Studio is intended to address the shifts in the way viewers access media, aiming at "the holy trinity" of mobile, web and TV.

Shane Smith, founder of Vice Media, which began business as a magazine 20 years ago in Montreal, called the partnership “the future of media.”

Provocative approach to news

"Our partner on this ambitious project will be Rogers. We'll build something truly special, deeply innovative and dedicated to the youth of this country. Rogers and Vice will program the content created out of our studio on its mobile platforms, its online outlets and its television properties,” he said in a news release.

Vice is known for its provocative approach to news, including sending its reporters to Congo, North Korea and other spots little covered by other media agencies.

The Canadian content to be created here will include food, sport, fashion and technology as well as news. Vice aims to work with young directors, journalists and producers willing to take a different approach.

For Rogers, the lure is the ability to create unique content for its mobile and digital users.

Rogers wants young viewers on digital

"We wanted to build a powerhouse for Canadian digital content focused on 18- to 34-year-olds," said Rogers CEO Guy Laurence in a news release.

“We're going to shake up Canada with exciting, provocative content and we'll export it around the world," he added.

Rogers already is offering preferred access to NHL hockey coverage to its customers and will add Vice franchises such as environmental show Toxic and F*** That’s Delicious, starring rapper and former chef Action Bronson, to its offering.

Vice Media is emerging as a major player in the new media landscape, offering its news magazine series on HBO in 2015 and partnering with Freemantle Media on a multichannel food platform aimed at millennial audiences.

In September, Technology Crossover Ventures and the cable network A&E each invested $250 million US for a 10 per cent stake in the company, valuing the company at $2.5 billion.

Most of time Rogers is putting up other people’s shows, but this will differentiate their content from what Bell or Shaw can provide, says Andrea Horan, portfolio manager at Agilith Capital.

“I think this is more than just another specialty channel. I think they’re trying to get into the proprietary content business,” she told CBC News.

There is a team at Rogers thinking all the time about reaching the 18-34 demographic and their wallets, she said.

“What they end up providing to mobile users is very open ended but let’s say it is news flashes told in a way that people in that age group really relate to – they make it very relevant. That is the best vehicle advertisers will have to reach that same demographic,” Horan said.