Vice reported nearly £160 million ($222 million) in revenues across its U.K. businesses in 2019, with “Gangs of London” producer Pulse Films driving the company’s production gains.
Filings posted to the U.K.’s Companies House reveal that Vice U.K. revenues — which span Vice U.K. Limited, covering digital and Virtue, as well as Pulse Films, Vice U.K. TV, Studios and other commercial entities — were up 50% on 2018 figures (£106 million).
Meanwhile, operating profits grew to more than £18 million ($25.1 million) in 2019, marking a 163% year-on-year growth. This was driven by a diversified digital and commercial business that includes the likes of i-D and Virtue as well as Paradise and Edition Worldwide, but the main driver was record growth from the Thomas Benski and Marisa Clifford-owned Pulse Films, which posted £62 million in revenues — a 43% boost on 2018 figures.
While the U.K. has traditionally been the main market for Pulse, the robust growth comes down to a strategic expansion into the U.S., which led to revenues of £30.5 million ($42.5 million). Pulse’s commercial business accounted for a major part of its growth in 2019, as well as productions like doc series “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann” for Netflix and the feature doc “XY Chelsea.” Vice took a majority stake in Pulse in 2016, but the company operates independently to the overall Vice Media Group (VMG) business.
Meanwhile, there has been speculation that VMG plans to go public by merging with special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) in the next few months. One SPAC is understood to be offering a valuation of around $2.5 billion. This valuation would represent a multiple of about four times the company’s revenue, which is believed to have been just over $600 million globally last year, which is essentially flat from the year before.
Vice declined to comment on the IPO, which was first reported by The Information.
Hosi Simon, global chief operating officer for VMG, tells Variety that the company went through “a lot of transformations” throughout 2019 to set itself up for growth. In particular, digital — meaning revenues from online publishing — accounts for around 30% of revenues.
The business claims it isn’t tied to legacy infrastructure and operates more nimbly, both in the U.K. and globally — positioning that also helped the company weather the pandemic in 2020.
CEO Nancy Dubuc revealed earlier this year that Vice was in fact profitable in 2020, with global revenues believed to sit around $620 million. Across VMG, around 50% of revenues come from North America, with the remainder originating from international.
While exact 2020 data is still unknown, VMG veteran Simon says the company has been eager to “push into different parts of the world” and expand the brand footprint. Only around 40% of the Vice audience is in North America, with the remainder coming from overseas.
“Going into 2020, we’re not immune to challenges, but diversified revenue streams and platforms and revenue from other parts of the globe means we’ve been able to mitigate these challenges,” says Simon.
In 2020 and beyond, it’s likely that in-house film and TV production arm Vice Studios, led by former Refinery 29 executive Kate Ward, will account for more of the production revenues. The outfit, which was still in its infancy in 2019, pulled in revenues of £1.7 million ($2.4 million) over the year, but is understood to have enjoyed a strong 2020, despite the COVID-19 crisis.
Naman Ramachandran contributed to this report.