MacTaggart lecture: TV and digital brands must give millenials meaningful content rather than ‘vapid and vacuous shit’ if they are to survive in a ‘highly volatile marketplace’, said Vice CEO Shane Smith, delivering the keynote MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
Smith said that legacy and new media brands must rapidly adapt to young viewers changing viewing behavior or run the risk of extinction.
“Baby boomers have had a stranglehold on media and advertising for a generation. That stranglehold is finally being broken by a highly educated, ethnically diverse, global-thinking, hard-to-reach generation, and media is having a hard time adapting to this rapid change.”
He chided the industry for producing too much derivative programming, such as home improvement and cooking shows. “Now, we all know that a lot of media is derivative. . . We just make what has been successful before. The reason why all this chaos in media is happening is because the new audience, the new purchasing power realizes that vapid and vacuous shit isn’t going to get us to where we need to go.”
Millenials, he said, ‘had the most sophisticated bullshit detector in history’. They also felt disenfranchised from a closed media, which Smith said is like a private club.
So to appeal to younger viewers, the media has to ‘hand it over to the kids’ – to allow young people to shoot, cut and host content aimed at them.
Smith said the “secret of Vice’s success” can be traced to “the day we changed our content that matters to young people”.
“We changed our brand from hipsters’ bible talking about rare denim, cocaine and super models to doing environmental programming, social justice, women’s issues, and, of course, music. I’m not stupid. And guess what? Our business grew. Our audience exploded. And we made more money.”
Smith also used his speech to predict a ‘bloodbath’ for media companies in the year ahead. He said major media conglomerates companies such as Fox, Viacom and Time Warner would look to consolidate as traditional TV audiences declined and ad revenues fell.
“Fox has already made a bid for Time Warner, Apple has made a bid for Time Warner and also wants to buy Netflix. If Viacom continues its Shakespearean implosion, which is a glory for me to watch, we will have everyone snapping off bits.”
He also said digital players were suffering too, with revenues hit by the rise of ad blockers and the dominance of Facebook and Google in the market.
Disney owns a stake of about 10% in Vice, while Fox has a 5% stake. Vice is set to launch its TV channel Viceland in the UK next month.