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Tom Freston's Bet on Vice and the Future of Media

Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011 | 4:12 PM ET
Tom Freston
CNBC
Tom Freston

Tom Freston made MTV a giant, and now he's making a bet on a small media venture which has a lot of similarities. Vice is edgy, it targets young men, and former Viacom CEO Freston says it has huge international growth potential. Today Freston announced an investment in Vice, along with the news that he's coming on board and will act as an advisor on the company's growth, focusing on content and international expansion.

Freston has been a fan of Vice since his Viacom days, which the media giant bought a stake in the company. But since then Vice has transformed from a magazine with a digital offshoot to a true multi-platform, diversified company. In addition to its magazine and video-heavy web site, it has a film and book label, it has a TV show on MTV, as well as a branding firm that's worked with Intel, Nike and Dell. It's hard for marketers to reach Vice's target audience of hipster, edge 20-something men, so the brands go to Vice, for an authentic-feeling presence in their world.

Freston's investing along with other high-profile names also announced today.

Ad giant WPP Group is also investing and taking a seat on the board — it'll introduce Vice to its clients and help the company work with large brands. The third investor is Raine Group, Joe Ravitch's boutique media bank, which is partly owned by Hollywood agency WME Entertainment. The agency, led by Ari Emanuel, is also playing another role — it's partnering with vice to represent its range of content across all platforms.

Freston's Next Big Bet
Tom Freston helped create MTV and launch The Daily Show. Now he's investing in a niche online media company called Vice, and he tells CNBC's Julia Boorstin why.

Freston and I talked about why he's investing in Vice — where he sees growth potential, and where it fits into the newly social media landscape. I've included the interview in this post so you can You can watch the full interview here.

Freston wasn't shy when it came to talking about his past in big media — he was notoriously fired by Sumner Redstone for failing to buy MySpace. What's his response to the fact that MySpace has been such a drag on NewsCorp that it's currently on the auction block? Freston chuckled and said he's "still waiting for Sumner Redstone to send him a thank you note." And he said he's quite happy *not* to be working at a giant media conglomerate — he sees a lot more potential for growth at a smaller, nimble company like Vice.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.