Rogers Media cuts ties with Vice Canada, pulls Viceland TV channel off the air

Boundary-pushing TV channel Viceland is slated to cease broadcasting as of March 31, as Rogers Media Inc. and Vice Canada end their three-year-old, $100-million partnership.

Rogers said in a statement on Monday it is evolving its Canadian content strategy and will redirect future funding to initiatives that “better align” with its portfolio and brands.

“In this crowded content universe and as audience habits change, we continue to evolve our strategy to deliver unique content to Canadians,” it said.

Rogers said it is also giving up its interest in Vice Studio Canada, established by the partners in Toronto through their 2014 agreement to generate Canadian content for mobiles, tablets, computers and TV screens that appeals to young people.

Ryan Archibald, president of Vice Canada, confirmed the partnership’s end in a separate statement Monday and said that keeping Viceland alive is a priority.

“Vice will continue to grow in Canada in 2018. We have a lot of opportunity ahead of us and will be announcing some new exciting partnerships soon,” he said, without giving specifics.

“Rogers Media’s initial investment helped to establish our studio as a leading producer of some of the most engaging Canadian content out there and we thank them for their partnership.”

Neither Rogers nor Vice would consent to interviews with executives. Rogers spokeswoman Andrea Goldstein said in an email her company alone had spent $100 million through the joint venture on creation of Canadian content, the studio and the TV channel.

Carmi Levy, a London, Ont.-based media analyst, said Rogers is likely the partner that decided to pull the plug.

“When you engage in a partnership of this type, I think both sides, and especially a telecom of the scale of Rogers, would expect some kind of return,” he said.

“Here you are just over three years into the deal and obviously the returns aren’t where they’d like them to be.”

He said it’s difficult to tell what Vice’s viewership was because those numbers haven’t been separately disclosed.

Vice Canada said the Rogers joint venture resulted in over 130 hours of original Canadian programming.

It says it now has full ownership of the content library and the Toronto studio after Rogers gave up its 30 per cent stake. It said it plans to continue to build that business.

The 24-hour-a-day Viceland television channel launched in February 2016 with prime-time shows including Gaycation with Ellen Page and Black Market with Michael K. Williams.

It is currently available on all major cable or satellite companies in Canada.

The end of the Rogers-Vice partnership comes as competitors Netflix and Amazon Prime are investing heavily in original programming.

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