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A&E’s H2 Channel to Become Vice

A+E Television Networks’ H2 is about to fade into history.

The Hearst and Disney-owned media company is expected to close the book on the extension network to its History Channel and instead turn it over to Vice Media to stock with lifestyle-themed documentary programming aimed at the millennial set, according to a person familiar with the situation. The move follows A+E Networks’ decision last year to become a minority shareholder in Vice Media, which continues to gain traction for its you-are-there shows that tackle hot-button issues and take viewers to new corners of the world in immersive fashion.

The channel will launch in early 2016, according to reports. The New York Post previously reported the intended change to H2. A+E did not make executives available for comment. Vice did not respond immediately to a query seeking comment.

The deal is not entirely unexpected. A+E bought a 10% stake in Vice last August, and one outcome suspected at the time was a takeover of one of the networks in A+E’s portfolio.  The deal expands the impact of Vice Media CEO Shane Smith, who has successfully taken the product he co-founded as a Canadian punk magazine in 1994 into a hard-hitting digital platform.

Vice also recently announced plans to air a five-day-a-week newscast on HBO as part of a four-year content pact, which will likely launch in the fourth quarter of this year.

A+E is facing some challenges heading into this year’s annual upfront market. The company’s suite of networks, which also include Lifetime, History, A&E and FYI, saw its commercial ratings among primetime viewers between 18 and 49 fall 21% in the first quarter of 2015, according to Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juneger, who also suggested A+E has been loading more commercials onto its air in order to meet audience guarantees.

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