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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

VICE Distribution

Programming Profile

Vice leverages its brand in new Digital Screenings playlist

03-09-2021

Bea Hegedus, senior VP and global head of distribution at Vice Media, shares the brand’s C21’s Digital Screenings playlist, which includes investigative docs, a docu-reality series and more.

 

Youth-skewing brand Vice Media added a distribution division to its ever-expanding television operation last year. Headed by former ITV Studios and Lionsgate exec Bea Hegedus, the sales arm launched with over 1000 hours of documentary, lifestyle and news programming.

 

In addition to licensing content, Vice Distribution has been tasked with forging partnerships with broadcasters and digital platforms around the world. Joint initiatives so far include a deal with UK broadcaster Channel 4 through which Vice is providing more than 120 hours of content for AVoD platform All4, content deals with Disney-owned US streamer Hulu, Discovery+, Pluto and Roku, as well as a long-standing partnership with SBS in Australia. Under the Hulu agreement, Vice supplies around 150 hours of its content, including Dark Side of Football, Dark Side of the 90s and one-off wrestling documentary Vice Versa: Chyna.

 

Hegedus
Bea Hegedus, Vice Media

Vice Distribution’s growth strategy over the next few years is to “supersize” current partnerships and set up new ones, according to Hegedus. “Vice content works best in a special environment and what works well for us is our All4 partnership, because it has similar content and a similar target audience,” she says. “The idea is that we find the best partner around the world in every country. I’m currently in discussions with multiple companies but the closest I am to closing a deal is in Scandinavia and Japan.”

 

The appeal of Vice’s content to international partners, broadcasters and platforms is that it is driven by unique access to people or institutions, says Hegedus. “Vice is famous for gaining difficult access and we do well with investigative docs and crime,” she says. “What we also do best is create content with a youth lens and unpack stories in ways other people don’t.”

 

Hegedus says Vice Distribution’s playlist for C21’s Digital Screenings highlights the genres in which the firm excels. First up is true crime docuseries Small Town Secrets (3×60’), which follows the 34-year-old cold-case investigation into the murder of student athlete Denise Pflum in a town in the US state of Indiana.

 

“Small Town Secrets centres on a female detective who is obsessed by the murder and our team follows her investigation in real time. It’s a bit like Making a Murderer,” Hegedus says. “There are confessions and witnesses in the town and there are lots of different suspects, and everyone in the town has formed their own idea of who the murderer is.”

 

Small Town Secrets
Small Town Secrets

Betraying the Badge (8×60’) explores the dirty deeds and crimes of corrupt police officers, in a docuseries that sounds like the non-fiction version of Line of Duty. Hegedus says she jumped at the chance to represent the series, which is produced by Vice-owned prodco Pulse Films: “Pulse Films is part of our group but they already had a lot of relationships with distributors before Vice acquired them, so I can’t have all their content. But every time I get something from them, I celebrate.”

 

Each episode of Betraying the Badge focuses on a different corrupt cop, with their crimes ranging from running a brothel to murdering on behalf of the Mafia. “You expect a cop to be helpful and honourable, but these are all stories of cops who have committed serious crimes and then got away with it for a long time,” Hegedus says.

 

Vice Versa: Crusaders
Vice Versa: Crusaders

Hegedus adds that programming like Betraying the Badge performs well with female audiences. “Shows like this really rate among female viewers,” she adds. “The show also does well with male audiences. Vice TV used to be a heavily male channel, but now it is a more balanced network.”

 

When asking buyers what content is topping their commissioning wishlist right now, Hegedus says they always respond with shows about conspiracy theories, series centred on a crime with “an edge,” and shows that uncover the truth.

 

To satisfy that demand, the playlist also features Vice Versa: Crusaders (1×120’), a feature doc that pulls back the cloak shrouding Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It’s about a conspiracy connected with Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Hegedus says. “The show follows the trend of documentaries about how religion and power silences victims until they can’t silence them anymore.”

 

Betraying the Badge
Betraying the Badge

Season two of The Devil You Know (6×60’) covers a similar area to Vice Versa: Crusaders. The second season, titled The Devil You Know: New Age Alien Agenda, focuses on people who believe “reptilians” are seeking to install totalitarian world government and bring about the rule of the Antichrist through mind control and bodysnatching.

 

In current affairs, Vice Distribution is offering The Big Squeeze (1×90’), which Hegedus says is the first feature-length doc produced about the Reddit-driven short squeeze of GameStop stock that made global headlines at the start of this year. “It’s a crazy story because people don’t think that you can beat the hedge funds, but you can,” Hegedus says. “But the documentary is more about the impact it had on people, and in it we talk to people on the ground, such as GameStop workers and the Reddit investors.”

 

The Big Squeeze
The Big Squeeze

Also on the playlist is a show about the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, titled Black Lives Matter: A Global Reckoning (4×60’). The four-part docuseries takes an immersive look at how protests in the US opened the door for young people around the world to grapple with racism in their own countries.

 

Sports documentaries are another genre produced and distributed by Vice. Vice Versa College $ports, Inc (1×120’) is an investigative sports documentary presented by former Olympian and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athlete Jeremy Bloom. In it, Bloom investigates the practices of NCAA and the murky world of its endorsement deals, after his collegiate football career in the early 2000s swiftly ended over an endorsement discord.

 

Dark Side of the Ring
Dark Side of the Ring

Meanwhile, docuseries Dark Side of the Ring, which has three seasons to date, is about professional wrestling. As wrestlers are the only sport stars who balance their in-ring characters with real life, the series examines the complex intersection of fantasy and reality while uncovering the sport’s dark and untold history.

 

Other documentaries on Vice’s slate include food series Counter Space, which explores the impact of food, from where it comes from to its impact on low-wage workers across the global supply chain, and entertainment docuseries Most Expensivest.

 

Counter Space is hosted by Sophia Roe, who has been nominated for Outstanding Culinary Host at this year’s Daytime Emmys. Most Expensivest is hosted by American rapper 2 Chainz, who showcases the most expensive items that money can buy –including a US$100m retirement home, US$5,000 cowboy hats and US$10,000 survival kits.

 

Most Expensivest
Most Expensivest

With a similar irreverent theme, One Star Reviews (10×30’) sees presenter Taji Ameen experience the lowest-rated businesses to see if they’re as bad as the internet says, or if they’re just misunderstood. Among the places he visits are a sushi restaurant and a dermatologist.

 

Finally, Chasing Famous is a docu-reality series following influencers inside The Wave House, a multimillion-pound mansion in the English countryside where creators live with the chief aim of making content for TikTok.

 

“The series is about the social media stars who live there and examines things like their day-to-day challenges and how positive they feel about their career,” Hegedus says. “It’s a fascinating insight into very young people quickly thrown into the limelight who may not always handle, or handle beautifully, their fame. The show also features a psychiatrist talking to them about it. Overall, it is an entertainment show, but we like to think that it’s informative and educational as well.”

 

Chasing Famous
Chasing Famous

Hegedus says Vice Distribution is expanding all genres on its slate, including more entertainment series like Chasing Famous. “We want to build up all the genres we produce and distribute, and we are actively working on it,” she says. “We have entertainment in development and we have lots of scripted in development, for example. We have actually sold one of our first scripted shows. The only area we won’t be looking to branch out into is kids or animation.”

 

As well as its content, Hegedus says that what sets apart Vice from other companies is that it is a brand with a strong image and loyal following. “We are a customer-facing brand and our customers know us very well,” she says. “I’m not just bringing a title; I’m also bringing a brand with it.”