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Vice CEO warns of media 'bloodbath'

News, 26 August 2016

EDINBURGH: The media industry can expect a "bloodbath" of consolidation next year as the last remaining major players build scale and some digital companies struggle through lack of money, the CEO and co-founder of Vice Media has predicted.

Shane Smith was speaking at a press briefing before delivering the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, an important date in the British TV industry's calendar.

"You've already seen huge consolidation this year; next year will be a bloodbath," he said in comments reported by the Financial Times.

"Fox has already made a bid for Time Warner, Apple has made a bid for Time Warner and also wants to buy Netflix. If Viacom continues its Shakespearean implosion – which is a glory for me to watch – we will have everyone snapping off bits.

"In the next six months everyone is going to try and buy everyone else and we will be sitting there laughing our heads off."

His comments come almost exactly a month after Verizon announced that it was buying Yahoo for $4.8bn and a fortnight after NBC Universal took stakes of $200m in both Vox Media and Buzzfeed.

Smith, who co-founded Vice as an alternative magazine in Montreal in 1994 before it grew into a valued, youth-focused media company, also hinted that Vice itself could be sold to a media giant.

One candidate could be Disney, which invested an additional $400m in the company at the end of 2015 to take its shareholding to 18%, the Guardian reported.

"At one point or another Time Warner tried to buy us, Fox tried to buy us, Viacom tried to buy us," Smith said.

"Recently we've done a big deal with Disney. And besides Disney they've all tried to give us haircuts on valuation, some have tried to censor us. They don't want to make Vice Disney, they want to give us autonomy. It makes sense for them and it makes sense for us."

Smith also criticised mainstream news outlets in the US for failing audiences, singling out news network CNN over its extensive coverage of Donald Trump.

"If you look at Trump as an example: Trump gives you ratings," he said. "The whole collusion between CNN and Trump is a perfect example of what's wrong in media today."

Data sourced from Financial Times, Re/code, Guardian; additional content by Warc staff