Speaking to CNBC and the Guardian, Smith wouldn’t say who his U.S. partner would be, but Vice is expected to partner with A+E Networks, as previously reported. Vice already has a TV channel in Canada through a deal with Rogers Communications.
Smith said he is in talks with Netflix, ITV, Sky and Discovery, among others, about partnering on the European channels. “There is a bit of a bidding war going on,” Smith told the Guardian. “In the U.K. there are potentially a number of partners. There are lots of deals on the table. It’s pretty fast and furious.”
Some of the potential media partners are keen to offer multi-territory deals, but Smith is against that approach. “Is it better to do separate deals in each country, or a three or four country deal with one company,” he said. “Then we have to think do we want a joint venture, do we buy a network ourselves, or do we partner.”
He has rejected offers by some companies to take a stake in Vice’s European operation.
Negotiations have been slower paced than Smith would have liked. “The problem is we want to include mobile, online and OTT (over the top),” he said. “But the old-school TV guard pays lip service to doing everything, but they don’t like simultaneous windows. We are trying to navigate those waters.”
Smith said deals with a local partner like a U.K.’s Channel 4 were being considered along with global players.
“We are talking to all of them,” he said. “The best deal could be a terrestrial player in one market. It could be a cocktail. A pan-European mobile deal and a TV partner. Although the pan-European guys with the money do make it difficult for the domestic guys to compete. But we are taking a long-game approach.”
Smith said that Vice had been readying content for the channels “in secret” and now had about 32 TV series in the production pipeline.
Smith will set out Vice’s European expansion plans in more detail at its IAB Digital Upfront presentation in London on Friday.