DUBAI: Vice Media plans to launch in the Middle East this summer in a bid to target the huge Arabic-speaking youth market.
It has partnered with the Dubai-headquartered Moby Group, and is also in discussions to bring its TV channel Viceland to the region, Arab News has learned.
Jahid Mohseni, chief digital officer at Moby Group, told Arab News that Vice will start life in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with an online presence.
“Vice is also exploring other potential partnerships to bring Viceland, its TV channel, to the region; discussions are ongoing,” he said.
Shane Smith, the cofounder and CEO of Vice Media, is in Dubai to mark the upcoming launch in MENA.
“Vice will go live in Arabic this summer and will have its regional headquarters in the UAE. Shane Smith is here to introduce Vice to the region and celebrate Vice’s arrival with audiences and industry stakeholders,” Mohseni said.
“We’re super excited about the level of talent and enthusiasm of candidates eager to join Vice. We’re in the process of identifying and hiring talent, so it’s too soon to comment on staff numbers.”
Reuters reported however that Vice is aiming for about 50 staff in Dubai by the end of the year. The new hub will also produce content in other languages including English, Farsi, Turkish and Urdu, Reuters said.
Vice’s global operation has covered a wilfully diverse range of subjects, with particularly memorable stories including a reporter who was “embedded” with Daesh, and one involving basketball star Dennis Rodman on a bizarre visit to North Korea.
Vice is known for its edgy, youth-orientated content, often with liberal sprinkling of expletives and references to sex and drug culture — topics that are, to put it mildly, not exactly staples of the mainstream Middle Eastern media. The North American media giant is also entering a region known for tight restrictions on press freedom.
Mohseni said however that the content produced in Arabic by Vice would share similarities with the global output.
“Vice will offer in MENA, as it does globally, human stories that are relevant, meaningful and entertaining for young people,” he said. “It will create content by local talent for young local audiences in addition to bringing global content to the region. Equally as important, Vice will bring the great work of journalists and creators throughout this region to its audience of hundreds of millions of people around the world.”
Shane Smith also visited the twofour54 media hub in Abu Dhabi, a statement from the zone authorities said.
He met with Noura Al-Kaabi, UAE minister for Federal National Council Affairs and chairwoman of twofour54, to discuss how Vice Media will help meet the “huge” demand for youth-focused programming in the region, the statement said.
“Vice Media’s expansion into the region from the UAE is exciting news for the industry and will help to meet the growing appetite of Arab millennials for world class digital content,” Al-Kaabi said.
“We look forward to working with Mr Smith and Vice Media as the company enters the market here.”
Smith said: “We’re very excited to launch this joint venture in the hub of the region’s media industry, the UAE. We’ll be building a state-of-the-art production and editorial studio that will tap into the best young filmmakers, journalists and producers from across the region, giving the burgeoning local youth audiences the gold standard of millennial programming.”
The announcement of Vice’s arrival was marked on Wednesday night with a party at Dubai’s glitzy Armani Hotel, which is housed in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
There is nothing particularly edgy about the Armani hotel, which is arguably known more for canapes than youth culture. But it is a very Dubai place to mark the launch.
“Yes, it’s at the Armani, which we thought would be an iconic Dubai location to celebrate at,” Mohseni said.