Traction is key. Period. If you’re starting any new venture, the Pareto principle makes itself felt in the most painful way. If – assuming you are successful – 80 per cent of your eventual effort went on the first 20 per cent of your customers, you have got off lightly.
Vice Media may be feeling the same way. In mid-September, it launched Viceland – a new UK TV channel available to 12m Sky subscribers. Having had a year to launch the product and the media base to promote it, it should have been a sure hit. Right? Wrong.
According to reports, Viceland’s peak viewing figures were around the 14,000 mark. According to an analysis of BARB data by Enders Analysis, there were moments when it effectively had no live viewers. This despite bringing out new programming such as Big Night Out and Black Market.
OK, so what’s up?
The planets seemed aligned when TV regulator Thinkbox approved Viceland last year. Vice’s online film work, such as embedding with the Taliban and the Russian Roulette series of dispatches, have been watched over 33m times so far.
One potential issue is those pesky kids. Or in Viceland’s world, its target audience and their failure to take hold of a Sky subscription. It is estimated that less than half of its 16-34 demographic has access to the channel.
Another seemingly important issue appears to be the position of Vice in the programming listing. At number 153, it is a little way off the beaten track for those having a browse on a Wednesday night.
Times have changed since Channel 4 was launched and everyone was glued to Countdown. Sad as it may seem now, people were actually buoyed by the novelty of having four channels to choose from. These days, anyone can launch a channel or produce good journalism. Something Vice has proven.
It is also worth noting that Sky struggled for some years after it launched. Traction takes time and any channel is a long-term investment. Yet it now occupies an important niche in British broadcasting. With original programming there is no reason why Viceland can’t eventually do the same. Furthermore, the channel has done well in the US.
The only issue is whether platforms like Sky offer the right way forward. There is evidence to suggest that people are increasingly moving away from live TV to on-demand. If that’s where the kids are, that could be where traction is, too.