Vice Media, already a video force of nature, is getting another gust of fresh capital. The company announced today that it has secured a $450 million round of funding from TPG, the private-equity giant with investments in such media-and-tech firms as Spotify, Airbnb and Uber. Vice plans to pour the money into the launch of Vice Studios to make scripted programs including feature films and episodic shows, along with other investments in new content and delivery systems. Vice, a powerful youth-media brand, will now have the funding to “build up the largest millennial video library in the world,” said Vice’s CEO Shane Smith in a statement, “enabling Vice to widen our offering to include news, food, music, fashion, art, travel, gaming, lifestyle, scripted and feature films.”
The latest funding increases speculation that Vice, which has its headquarters in Williamsburg, is heading for an initial public offering. Smith acknowledged the prospect in an interview today with CNBC, suggesting that TPG’s investment may be a precursor. “It’s what we would do if we were going to go public–is get a third party paying and start building our book, and bringing in revenue on a sort of hockey-stick basis,” Smith said to CNBC. “So that theoretical IPO would look very sexy.”
Vice has already been a money magnet, raising $970 million in six funding rounds, according to Crunchbase. Investors include 21st Century Fox, A&E Networks and the Walt Disney Co., which invested $400 million in 2015 and owns an 18% stake. The new investment, which puts Vice’s valuation at about $5.7 billion, will dilute Disney’s stake, as well as the earlier investments, the Wall Street Journal reported. TPG, headquartered in Forth Worth and San Francisco, has about $72 billion of assets under management.
The investments will enable Vice to continue its aggressive expansion around the world (80 territories by early next year), across multiple outlets (13 owned and operated digital channels) and through programming carried by partners, including VICE on HBO and VICE News Tonight. “We need to build a much bigger library,” Smith told CNBC. “We already do news. We do docs, and we do reality, but we want to do a lot of scripted and feature films.” Last year, Vice acquired a controlling stake in the British production company Pulse Films, its partner in producing the film Shut Up and Play the Hits, to boost its programming capabilities.
Vice has been busy expanding on other fronts too. Earlier this month the company unveiled a new line of delivered meal kits named after its Munchies food vertical and developed by Toronto chef Matty Matheson. In the realm of advertising, Vice has partnered with Delta Airlines to create the Delta Launchpad, a series of free public events driven by young entrepreneurs. Last week, Vice announced a partnership with consumer-research firm Lightspeed to create Vice Voices, billed as “the largest customized market research panel and portal of its kind” and designed to show advertisers that Vice’s “branded content is effective while giving them a better understanding of the audience they’re reaching,” as Digiday reported. Look out, millennials: Vice is coming for you, now more than ever.