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Vice Doesn't Want to Talk About Viceland's Ratings, but CNN Boss Jeff Zucker Does

Some smack talk, and some numbers.

Asa Mathat for Vox Media
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.

Vice Media CEO Shane Smith has many fans in Medialand, including investors who have helped boost his company’s value to $4.4 billion.

He also has plenty of people rooting against him. Or at the very least, people who would like to puncture the narrative around Vice’s ascent as an unstoppable millennial media force.

For instance: There are lots of TV people who are eager to point out that Viceland, the A&E-owned cable channel that used to be called H2 until Vice rebranded and relaunched it last month, is not killing it.

One of them — CNN boss Jeff Zucker — was happy to do it in front of reporters yesterday, at a press luncheon hosted by CNN parent Turner.

Per TVNewser’s Chris Ariens:

“After discussing politics and today’s CNN digital news, Zucker added, ‘Somebody should ask me how Viceland is doing.’

“Someone did, to which Zucker responded: ‘Not very well!'”

Here’s what Zucker was talking about: While Vice has chosen to go without national Nielsen ratings for the first six months of Viceland’s launch, Nielsen is providing local ratings for the channel, and those aren’t boast-worthy. Specifically, Nielsen says that Viceland’s audience of people between the ages of 25 and 54 has dropped by more than 70 percent compared to H2 over the past two weeks. (It’s reasonable to assume, however, that the decline wouldn’t be as severe if you looked at a younger demo, which is the one that Vice is targeting.)

Vice and A&E aren’t commenting on the ratings, but if they did, they would likely argue that there’s a big difference between local and national ratings.

They might also argue that much of Viceland’s audience is going to consume the channel’s content via outlets like its mobile app. And that for the time being, Nielsen doesn’t measure those eyeballs.

Update: A Vice PR rep does have a comment, after all. “These numbers aren’t even remotely accurate in representing the number of viewers our programming has reached across all screens in just a few weeks.”

Vice also says that, since January, its Viceland content, which it has been previewing via outlets like YouTube and other on-demand digital distributors, has generated 107 million views.

It’s also not terribly surprising that Zucker would be the TV executive willing to go on the record about Viceland’s performance, instead of whispering about it: Prior to Vice’s A&E deal, the company had been negotiating with Turner and parent company Time Warner to take over CNN’s HLN channel. And Zucker was quite vocal about his distaste for that scenario.

Vice and Smith, meanwhile, have been quite vocal about their disdain for CNN. So it’s a pretty good feud.

Even better: While one arm of Time Warner has a beef with Vice, another is doing lots of business with the company. Time Warner’s HBO has been running a weekly Vice show for a couple of years, and later this year will start running a daily news show.

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