Viceland’s approach to content development is pretty straightforward.

“We want to find talented people who have something to say, and really get out of the way and let them say it,” said Co-President and General Manager Guy Slattery.

The strategy behind Vice Media’s fledgling channel is clearly a bit more complicated than that. But handing cameras to individuals with strong voices and opinions, and having them speak directly to viewers, has proven successful since the network’s February 2016 launch as millennials are drawn to Viceland’s signature hyper-reality style.

“Millennials have really great bullshit detectors,” he said. “We want to be incredibly transparent about what we’re doing.”

With a background in marketing, Slattery oversees all aspects of the channel’s operations, including programming and production, marketing, scheduling, research and sales.

He, along with E! Entertainment and Esquire Network President Adam Stotsky and DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products President Diane Nelson, will discuss their paths from marketer to corporate leader during the session, “From CMO to CEO” at PromaxBDA: The Conference 2017 on Tuesday, June 6 at the J.W. Marriott at LA Live.

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Prior to joining VICE Media, Slattery was executive vice president of marketing at A+E Networks where he was responsible for all marketing, creative and brand strategy for A&E and History, as well as the creation of lifestyle network FYI.

Slattery has, as he puts it, “been lucky enough to work in places where marketing has a seat at the table.” He’s seen first-hand how networks get put together, how shows get developed, and the type of content that’s successful and unsuccessful.

“Here, we actually make the content ourselves, and that’s probably been the biggest learning curve for me,” he said. “We are the production company.”

When it comes to producing original series, Viceland looks for people who are curious about the world, and whom viewers won’t often see on other television networks.

For instance, Gaycation tackles LGBTQ issues, while Black Market explores why people enter into a life of crime. Viceland has also dipped into late night with Desus & Mero, featuring two guys from the Bronx with strong points of view who discuss current events, politics and pop culture through their own comedic lens.

“The reason that show’s resonating is a lot of people recognize that voice, but haven’t seen it on a nightly show before,” Slattery said.

Viceland also has four new series premiering this summer: American Boyband which chronicles star Kevin Abstract and his band’s journey across the U.S. in their first headlining tour; first scripted project What Would Diplo Do starring James Van Der Beek as a man who appeals to thousands of fans yet has been reported as underwhelming one-on-one; Nuts + Bolts, following Tyler The Creator as he explores how some of his favorite things are made and then tries to remake them in his creative vision; and The Last Shot, a documentary following an underground Mexican basketball league funded by drug cartels.

Viceland’s unique approach to storytelling extends to marketing and advertising, with campaigns and messaging that’s upfront about wanting to get more eyeballs on the network, but delivered in an authentic way.

“We don’t want to try and trick people,” Slattery said. “We want to be transparent and create something interesting. We are trying to get people to watch the show, but we think this is actually something worth your time watching.”

For instance, Viceland’s “I Smoke Weed” campaign for its series Weediquette provides glimpses into the lives of everyday people—doctors, lawyers, police officers and other productive members of society—with one common denominator that sets them apart: they all smoke marijuana.

“We thought we’d just activate people who are proud weed smokers,” Slattery said.

RELATED: Viceland’s ‘Weediquette’ Launches ‘I Smoke Weed’ Campaign

Viceland takes a similar approach to advertising, with reduced commercial loads during breaks, allowing more time for other types of content, like marketing campaigns, ads that don’t quite feel like ads, or something as simple as a beautiful piece of art, live poetry, or behind-the-scenes look at the network. As a result, viewers find the breaks enjoyable, tend to stick around instead of flipping the channel, and are there to see the ads that do run.

“It’s a longer walk to get there, but it pays off,” Slattery said.

Since its launch, ratings at Viceland have increased every month.

“A lot of people often ask me, why launch a cable channel in 2016?” Slattery said. He admits it seems counterintuitive given reports that millennials are not exactly known for watching linear television, and cable is in decline. But television is still the dominate medium, and the channel has been effective in exposing the brand to those who may not have sought it out otherwise.

“What’s great about Viceland is it’s in people’s home all across America and people are discovering it by accident,” Slattery said.

As for the future, the network plans to keep doing what it’s doing, while continuing to experiment.

“We want to keep growing,” he said, “and keep reaching more people with our content.”


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