Making television cool again: Why Vice premiered its latest digital series on TV

In an unexpected move from Vice, the company's new digital series Australiana premiered recently on SBS Viceland. Yes - on actual TV. Zoe Samios chats with Katy Roberts, Vice's head of video, about the new series, the future of digital video and making television cool again.

While TV networks are using digital to drive audiences to their programs, Vice has reversed the strategy, using free-to-air broadcast television service SBS Viceland to launch its new digital series Australiana.

The locally produced series, which tells the story of modern Australia through the eyes of the ‘marginalised, ignored and the plain bizarre’, launched last week via Vice’s free-to-air TV network SBS Viceland before being rolled out through its digital vertical Vice Video.

The series premiered on SBS Viceland before running on Vice’s video vertical

Australiana, a long form series about Australian subcultures and overlooked communities, will roll out an additional four episodes this year, aiming to capture the eyes of Vice’s local and international audiences.

Vice’s head of video Katy Roberts says: This is really for digital audiences, but we do have the unique opportunity to put it in multiple places and it makes sense to put it on SBS Viceland as well.

“We want to be everywhere young people are, and so some of our audience is on SBS Viceland, and some of our audience is on digital, and those audiences aren’t necessarily the exact same audiences.”

Roberts says the integration creates a “louder awareness” of the Australiana brand

“It just creates a louder awareness of the Australiana brand not necessarily the individual episodes, but if people come across it organically on air, then a month down the track they may see the second episode come up on their Facebook feed and then creating that world and making people aware of it,” she says.

“We are all very interested over the next week to regroup and see how it works and for us we aren’t scared to experiment.”

However, when asked whether the integration of content between Vice Video and SBS Viceland would give broadcasters advertisers a chance to support digital-first content, Roberts says: “At this stage we’re just thinking about this from an audience point of view.”

For Roberts, the series is something Vice hopes to build on over the next few years:

“It is an opportunity for us to hold the mirror up to ourselves and look at our own national identity. Here at Vice, we feel like that identity is often homogenised.

“Australia gets a really bad wrap globally and we are excited to be able to paint a more honest portrait of Australia, even if it is in this collage sense.”

Roberts, who has led Vice Video since its launch late last year, says the bespoke video player used by the vertical – which is where the rest of Australiana will run – has allowed the media company to better “control the viewing experience” and provide free content to its audience.

“The fact that we’ve created our own player now, we’ve built it bespoke for our own purposes is so useful for us.

“Not only are we able to control the viewing experience, and user experience of how people are seeing our content, but also it means we are able to monetise our own content on our own terms,” she says.

According to Vice, the player has the second highest traffic across all verticals.

While Vice did not disclose its vertical numbers, the latest Nielsen digital ratings for June indicate Vice’s unique audience was 462,000, a slight decrease from last month’s 472,000.

Roberts says the Vice Video vertical is growing its audience base through partnerships, the latest being the Melbourne International Film Festival.

“They are such a perfect partner for us. We have a lot of the same ideals and it just feels like a natural fit for us,” she says.

“They get access to our audience and they know our audience has a high appetite for video content and documentaries, so they’re sort of able to leverage it, put advertising in front of our audiences.

“For us, we’re very happy to be associated with them, they’re a great brand and they only make us look better by pushing their content and what they’re doing. This particular year, they partnered specifically with Vice Video, so we’ve been able to make a bespoke 30 second ad to run ahead of some of the screening which will be directly promoting some of the documentary content we have.”

For the rest of the year, Roberts says she will be focussing on lowering the average age of the TV audience, looking at more hosted formats for digital, and “creating stronger synergies” between editorial and the video vertical.

She also says Vice will look towards more digital series hosted across Vice.com and Vice Video.

“In terms of that we don’t look straight at the ratings, we are looking at the reach, time spent viewing on on demand and on demand has had a lot of significant growth.

“We are pleased to see the uptake by Australians engaging with the channel, and focusing on our programs and exploring SBS charter diversity,” she says.

“We are really putting a lot of focus on social and experimenting a lot with social, trying to grow our audience there and how we want to use that channel and how we want to drive that audience back to Vice.com.”


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