Vice to launch TV network in US, and a dozen in Europe

Vice announcing TV networks
Vice launching TV networks
Vice CEO: To sell or go public?
Feeding the 'Vice' beast

Vice CEO Shane Smith has built an empire around content aimed at millennials. Now, he says he's bringing that content to many more TV networks around the globe.

In an exclusive interview with CNBC from London, Smith said the company will launch a Vice TV network in the U.S., along with a dozen in Europe, next year.

Smith didn't say who the company's partner in the U.S. will be, but in Europe the company will buy some networks, partner and do joint ventures with others.


"It makes sense to launch a network anywhere. Because we're doing three screens, OTT [over the top], we're doing a network with Rogers in Canada. we're doing networks in Europe, networks in South America," said Smith. "We want to be able to go to our brands and say we can do TV, we can do mobile, we can do OTT, we can do everything."

Smith said Vice is in a strong position to move into TV, because even as the cost of networks decline, 75 percent of ad revenue is still in television.

"We look at it as a content creation engine where we can make a lot of content that we can then leverage to mobile and leverage online, leverage into OTT," said Smith. "So you can actually take money from TV and put it into mobile, which is quite frankly more difficult to monetize."

Financials & the Future

Asian expansion is no quick-fix for Netflix

Smith also revealed some key financials, saying that the company's profit and revenue have been doubling every year, with revenue on track to near $1 billion this year, and to double over the next few years. He also said that the company is in the midst of acquisition talks with "everybody" at a valuation of $5 billion. (20th Century Fox owns a 5 percent stake in the company, and A&E also owns a small stake.)

That valuation, which Smith projects will continue to grow with the company's revenue, raises the question of how to handle the company's next phase: sell or go public.

"We're valuable. Right now we have a decision to make, because we're topping out the valuation where a media company should buy us. Once we get into the next wave, it's either the major telcos or Apple or Google. If we're getting too expensive for media [acquisition] then, do we go public? We're kind of at the top end where media could buy us today."

Smith said rolling out TV networks around the world will "cost billions of dollars," so he's evaluating what kind of strategic move to make. "Right now we're talking to various people and we'll see which one happens," Smith said. "For me, around the end of this year, we're going to have to make a decision about whether we start to make the book to go public, or do a sort of larger, major strategic deal."


Vice Media co-Founder Shane Smith speaks during "Missing Ink: The New Journalism” in San Francisco.
Vice CEO: Ready to go 'prime time' with HBO partnership

On the heels of Netflix saying last week that it will go head-to-head with Vice in the next few years, Smith said he's flattered, not concerned.

"What they've done with Netflix is fantastic, and the fact that we're important to HBO is important to us," said Smith. "When we first started with news, everybody said 'Oh Vice is doing news' and sort of looked down their nose at us, and now Netflix is saying 'We're going to do a Vice News' and The New York Times is saying 'We're going to do a Vice News,' and everybody is saying 'We're going to do a Vice News'."

"A year ago everyone was laughing at us," he said. "It's vindication."