12 of the Bay St. Bull Power 50: Vice Media
The Power 50 is a collection of Canada’s top people, places and things of 2016. Our list is filled with game changers from all corners of the nation that are inspiring, innovating and influencing the way we live and work from the top. Giving you the best from every city, industry, office and home, The Bull’s Canadian Power 50 is not your typical list and instead is the definitive guide to who and what is changing the way Canada lives, works and plays.
12. Vice Media
How do you solve a problem like Vice, the industry leader in producing and distributing the most lauded online video content in the world? With bureaus in over 30 countries, the digital powerhouse has rapidly ascended into a full-fledged media empire.
Funny then to consider Vice’s modest Canadian roots in the face of its estimated $915 million revenue from 2015. Launched with government funding in 1994 by Shane Smith, Suroosh Alvi, and Gavin McInnes as the Voice of Montreal, the original purpose of the trio was to provide a community service. But by 1996, the trio had bought out their original publisher. Under the new moniker of Vice, the magazine was briefly invested in by a Canadian software millionaire and relocated to New York City (Brooklyn to be specific), where it developed a status for politically-incorrect content. After a brief run with mixed results, Vice was soon reacquired by its three founders and, back in their hands, the outlet adopted more of a punk image, focusing on edgy topics aimed at a younger generation. The success led to swift international growth. At the end of 2007, they were putting out over a dozen foreign editions across all five continents. This would only be the beginning.
Now known today as Vice Media, the enterprise has broadened to operate the world’s premier original online video destination (VICE.COM), an international network of digital channels, record label, in-house creative services agency, book-publishing division and a series on HBO. Determined to continue diversifying, the company has also teamed with Snapchat to circulate video and editorial news coverage and entertainment, plus forged a similar partnership with FIDO to produce original video exclusively for the cellular carrier. And this year—thanks to a $100 million joint venture with fellow Canadian media behemoth, Rogers—it introduced its 24-hour entertainment and lifestyle TV channel called VICELAND. With Oscar-winning writer-director Spike Jonze serving as the channel’s creative director, they cover topics from fashion and music to food and sports.
In an age when most media companies are treading to keep their heads above water, here is a brand that has not only thrived, but managed to turn a profit. A big one. In mid-August 2013, Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox invested $70 million in Vice Media, resulting in a 5% stake. Plus, in addition to the above collaborations with HBO, Snapchat and Rogers, the brand recently netted a reported $200 million from Disney, which is believed to have raised the company’s worth to a colossal $4.5 billion. This was in addition to the $250 million investment from A&E, which acquired 10% of the company.
In October 2015, co-founder and CEO Shane Smith gambled that if Vice went public, it could be valuated at as much as $20 billion. With those kind of numbers at play and so many irons in the different fires, the question going forward for Vice isn’t so much, “what’s next?” But rather, “what’s left?”
With its focus on lifestyle-oriented broadcasts and reality programming aimed towards millennials, VICELAND is raising the bar for character-driven documentaries.
STATES OF UNDRESS: An exploration of fashion and its context in different communities.
BALLS DEEP: Host Thomas Morton hangs out with different groups of people to gain perspective.
HUANG’S WORLD: How food connects people in different cultures through the eyes (and appetite) of Eddie Huang.
NOISEY: A first-hand look into the cultures and artists behind some of the world's most compelling music scenes.
WEEDIQUETTE: A look into how cannabis is changing society’s economic, political and social landscapes.