In a wide-ranging breakfast discussion with journalists from the UK’s Broadcasting Press Guild on Thursday, Vice’s international president Dominique Delport said the focus is on hiring rather than buying talent.
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“As long as we attract talent without having to acquire… I don’t think it would make a lot of sense [to acquire production companies],” Delport said in response to a question from Deadline.
He made clear that Vice will remain “opportunistic” if the right deal comes along, and the company has shown that it is prepared to part with cash to increase its scale after dropping $400M on digital publisher Refinery29 this month.
But for now, the focus is on existing production resources, with Vice Studios recently appointing Refinery29’s international chief Kate Ward as its president, and 2016 acquisition Pulse Films planning for its biggest year yet.
Delport said Pulse’s Gangs Of London for Sky and HBO will be a “radically different” to anything seen before when it premieres in spring next year. He added that Pulse is also developing two ambitious scripted projects for Netflix and Amazon, with one focused on the “music world.” He declined to reveal more, but Pulse is no stranger to Netflix having made documentary The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann for the streamer.
Delport said Vice Studios accounts for a “bit less than 20%” of the group’s overall revenue and alongside ad agency, Virtue, is the fastest growing area of the business. “The growth that we plan for 2020 through Vice Studios is pretty impressive,” he explained, adding that it will be a double-digit increase.
Other projects made by Vice Studios include Adam Driver film The Report, which lands on Amazon this week after a theatrical release, and an eight-part series on hype culture for Chinese streaming service Tencent Video.
Refinery29 and Vice’s Philip Morris deal
Away from Vice Studios, Delport — who doubles as Vice’s global chief revenue officer and reports to CEO Nancy Dubuc — said the Refinery29 integration is all-but complete. “It’s spectacular. I’ve made 25 integrations in my career, it’s the fastest, the most culturally obvious integration that I’ve seen. The talent at Refinery is mindblowing,” he said.
He also defended Vice’s partnership with tobacco company Philip Morris to create sponsored content in the UK, some of which reflects favorably on vaping. Vice created website Change Incorporated, which features articles including ‘E-cigs Better For Quitters Than Going Cold Turkey’ and ‘UK Health Officials Stand By Vaping Safety.’
“It’s interesting to look at what we have delivered for that because it’s controversial to work for that industry. What we did in the UK was a one-year unique experience of how can we help people quitting cigarettes, quitting smoking,” Delport said. “We are producing content that is only about how to quit… we made that deal because there was total editorial integrity.”