When it was announced that A+E Networks was to convert H2 into a 24-hour Vice network, I was pretty excited. The HBO show is great. Their digital video content is grand. As long as they don’t let most of their writers near this thing it should be a no-lose. At best they have great programs, gain popularity, clear more households, obtain an HD signal in most of those*, and so forth. At worst, A+E Networks and replace it with repeats from History Channel or try something completely different.
Trailers are out for the first batch of their shows and I’m into most of them. The show about up-and-coming comedians that share a house is an especially interesting one, as my friend and up-and-coming comedian Walker Smith pointed out.
Here’s the thing, though. Viceland shares the mission of Fusion and Pivot of brining news and docs to millennials. They do get a bump by taking over a signal instead of starting from scratch (Though, Fusion did too. RIP ABC News Channel.) but it’s still the least available A+E network. As in, it’s in a package that isn’t the basic one you’re forced to get in order to obtain cheaper internet. Meanwhile, they know this and know that they aren’t going to do very well (at first). This is why they’re making a deal (presumably for money) with Nielson to not measure their ratings for the first 6 months.
Pivot had my favorite current events program hosted by Jacob Soboroff (also Megan McCain but still). It was canceled because live TV is expensive and the ratings just weren’t there. Pivot is mostly docs, Buffy repeats, and Please Like Me now.
Vice has great content, but how expensive is it to produce and can it weather low ratings on Viceland after its Nielson deal expires? Viceland basically seems like Current_TV 2.0 but ran by people who aren’t Al Gore and know how to make money off of such programming. I’m just not convinced that they wouldn’t have done better launching a digital service. They basically already have one. A few more bucks on a few more apps and they would have been able to reach their millennial demo without having to rely on archaic cable systems for distribution.
The answer, I believe, comes from the other side. NBCUniversal, for example, saw its flailing G4tv (good riddance) attempt at a “men’s network” (may the both great predecessors to that G4tv, G4 the video game channel and TechTV RIP) and decided to revamp it using a known brand seen as more savvy in Esquire Network. A+E is doing the same thing here. The benefit will be, hopefully, an infusion of money for better content from better sources. How it will pan out? Only time (apparently more than 6 months) will tell.
*H2 I’m basing this on anecdotal evidence using Mediacom and AT&T as my only examples of them not having an HD signal. It’s still annoying when interesting channels like Viceland, Fusion, and Pivot clear tons of households only to be available without an HD option.