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Big Moves for Shane Smith: Vice Media Is Set to Raise $500 Million and Get Its Own Cable Channel

Vice is set to get its own cable channel -- along with a bunch of cash -- from two new investors.

Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Cable TV viewers have had a chance to watch Shane Smith and his Vice Media reporters, via an HBO series that’s now in its second season.

But they’re very likely to see a lot more of Vice in the not-so-distant future, and they won’t have to pay for HBO to see it.

Vice’s deal to sell 10 percent of its company to A&E, first reported today in the Financial Times, should mean that the company, best known for its Internet video success, will get its hands on a cable channel it can brand and program.

That’s not the only big move for Smith, Vice’s co-founder, CEO and very visible figurehead. Sources say he is also close to a deal to sell another stake in Vice to investors Technology Crossover Ventures, at the same terms as the A&E deal: $250 million for 10 percent of the company, at a $2.5 billion valuation.

A Vice rep confirmed the A&E deal, but declined to comment further.

The TCV deal should be a straightforward financial investment. But the A&E investment is designed to help Vice further its media ambitions. People familiar with the transaction say it’s a good bet that the company, which previously talked to Time Warner about taking over that company’s HLN network, will end up with one of A&E’s instead.

Which one? A&E, which is co-owned by Disney and Hearst, owns six cable channels that have significant distribution in the U.S. Three of them — A&E, Lifetime and History — are well-established performers for the programmer. And A&E just put significant effort into rebranding Bio into FYI, a lifestyle network, this year.

That leaves two other obvious candidates for Vice to play with: LMN — an “entertainment destination for women” — and H2, which says it delivers “information as entertainment.”

Both networks have extensive distribution via pay TV providers — LMN reaches 84 million homes, while H2 reaches 68 million, according to Nielsen — but neither are ratings powerhouses, which means A&E might be willing to experiment.

That said, it’s hard to imagine A&E telling the cable TV providers it has signed long-term deals with that it is transforming a women’s entertainment network into a channel that delivers harrowing and edgy news from around the world. H2, which is already delivering reality shows like “Modern Marvels,” would be a much easier switch.

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