Verizon Communications Inc. has inked a deal with Vice Media to license content angled toward food, travel and tech programming. The multi-year deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, is the carrier’s latest content deal as it prepares to roll out its mobile video service.
Vice will supply curated content from its digital channels, along with making new content exclusive to Verizon’s service. Vice is seen as a youth-focused media brand and Verizon is also trying to reach more young, mobile connected device users in search of content that can easily be viewed or read via smartphones. Along with its existing programming, Vice will produce a new series, "Autobiographies," that will be exclusive to the Verizon mobile video service.
Until now, Verizon has been licensing programming that it has tried to target at younger viewers in the hopes of building momentum for its mobile video service, which is set to debut this year. Verizon also has deals in place with, among others, teen-oriented content provider AwesomenessTV, and a number of networks dedicated to college sports. Verizon also recently paid $4.4 billion for AOL Inc. to provide ad support for the new service.
We reached out to Akshay Sharma, research director in the carrier network infrastructure group at Gartner Inc., who told us the Vice TV acquisition makes sense in the context of Verizon’s plans for its mobile video service.
"Verizon has made a big investment in owning the last mile and having its own content distribution network," said Sharma. "Now it needs content to fill it. It’s hard to make the money they want to make by just being a bitpipe."
Mobile Service Coming
Vice Media is following the lead of other content providers by signing up for partnerships with several carriers and networks. The firm has signed deals with companies such as Spotify and HBO, and has licensing agreements in place for its content in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Vice was started in 1994 as a punk rock-oriented print publication before getting into online content and a wider variety of news and documentary programming.
The deal is part of the content provider’s strategy to "push the boundaries of video distribution across all platforms," said Vice's co-president James Schwab. "[M]obile is key to the emerging brave new world of video distribution, and with deals like this we are making sure we are staying at the bleeding edge of innovation in that space."
Verizon’s mobile video service will be accessible on any mobile phone even if the owner of the phone isn’t a Verizon customer. Some content will be free but with advertising, while other content will count against users’ data plans.
The live events on the new service will by supported by multicasting, which lets Verizon broadcast a single video feed from cell towers to cellphones similar to the way over-the-air TV uses radio waves. The technology will let Verizon broadcast live events with less network congestion.