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Why Vice Isn't F*cking Stupid for Launching a Cable Network in 2016 (Video)

"It's ... the best time in history to be a content creator."

Asa Mathat for Vox Media
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

A hot young media brand that says it’s the voice of a new generation is gearing up for its next huge launch with … a cable channel? Viewers can be forgiven for thinking Vice’s Shane Smith has time-traveled back to 1981.

But let Smith explain.

“It’s a very logical decision,” the Vice CEO and chief shit-stirrer said at the Code/Media conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif., on Wednesday evening.

Everyone says they want to be a media company that makes content for all media, but no one does it, Smith argued. Until Vice.

“We are going to be platform agnostic,” he said. “It’s also the best time in history to be a content creator because it’s a market,” he added, rattling off the names of big Internet companies and mobile carriers who are joining the TV industry in wanting in on original content.

ESPN, whose president, John Skipper, was onstage just before Smith, still makes gobs of money in TV, and Smith said that’s a big reason why Vice will soon launch Viceland, a cable news network backed by Disney and A&E Networks. While the mass audiences are now on digital, the big money is still in TV.

“It’s bringing us more advertising, more money, more licensing [opportunities],” Smith said. Everyone just thinks it’s “Shane wants a TV channel,” he added.

Smith was joined on stage by Spike Jonze, the writer and director behind movies like “Her” and “Being John Malkovich,” who is a co-president of Viceland and has been a longtime creative director at Vice Media. Jonze said owning a TV network gives creative talent the ability to focus on continual experimentation, rather than worrying about making one-off hits. The challenge, he said: “Can we make something in this corporate media world that feels personal?”

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