“Vice News Tonight” will be a half-hour nightly newscast, and will air weeknights on HBO. It will also be available on the Time Warner premium-cable service’s HBO Go and HBO Now streaming services as well as on demand. “The nightly news hasn’t changed its format in 60 years, whereas the way most viewers – particularly younger viewers – consume information has changed dramatically,” said Josh Tyrangiel, Vice’s executive vice president of content, news, in a statement. “We understand that people aren’t going to watch ‘Vice News Tonight’ out of obligation. We’re going to have to earn people’s time and attention with great reporting and original forms of storytelling.”
Vice relishes in an image it has created for itself as a brash media upstart built on an empire of newsy video reports with a “you are there” authenticit, distributed primarily via streaming video. By entering nightly news, however, it dips its corporate toe in much deeper waters. A nightly newscast carries with it substantial infrastructure costs and requires nabbing a viewership that is committed to regular tune-in – no small feat in an era when a rising generation of viewers, particularly the sort Vice covets, have a dizzying array of video choices at their beck and call.
Indeed, Vice Media has staffed up noticeably in recent months, notching approximately 40 hires from outlets including The New York Times, ABC News, The Verge and BuzzFeed. The company already has a weekly newsmgazine that airs on HBO and its success seems to have fueled big ambitions. “I think there’s a huge white space,” Vice CEO Shane Smith told Variety earlier this year.“We have political contacts and military contacts. We have terrorist contacts. We have contact with everybody, and can go in and get the story out. I think I would put our team up against any other team that’s out there.”
The company may have chosen a propitious time for its endeavor. While TV’s evening newscast has been in decline over many years, the genre has recently shown new signs of stability. The average viewership for the three main evening-news programs on broadcast TV inched up in 2015, according to data from Pew Research Center’s annual “State of the Media” report. In 2015, CBS, ABC and NBC’s evening-news programs won an average of nearly 23.87 million viewers, compared to an average of around 23.65 million a year earlier. The numbers have increased every year since 2012, according to the report. Advertising revenue for the three broadcasts also increased in 2015, Pew said.
The new HBO show will air at 7:30 p.m. – an hour later, typically, than when “CBS Evening News,” “NBC Nightly News” and ABC’s “World News Tonight” launch. One long-running critique of the national evening programs is that they air at a time when many Americans are still involved with their jobs, owing to longer commutes and a corporate culture that has overwhelmed the once-rigid 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. working day.
The nation’s most-watched evening-news anchor said he was likely to keep an eye on the new HBO program. “I’ve seen some of the work Vice does. It’s aggressive. It’s cutting edge. I don’t think it will be a direct head-to-head competitor with us. I hope not,” said Holt, who has led “NBC Nightly News” since June 22 of last year, during an interview. Holt views any entity producing news content as a possible rival, even if it’s just one person taking video of something important with a smartphone. Even so, he added, “I think there’s something unique about what we and our network competitors offer, and I think that there’s an audience that will still come to us.”
Will Vice News have a face? While the company has named many staffers, it has yet to offer details about whether the show will be hosted by a traditional anchor or will feature another framing device between segments. HBO said Tuesday that additional information about format, content and staff is expected in weeks to come.