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HBO courts millennials by doubling down on Vice TV content

HBO is expanding its relationship with Vice Media as the premium cable channel prepares to debut its online streaming service, HBO Now.

The two media outfits announced a four-year deal Thursday that will see Vice, the millennial-focused digital news company, produce HBO’s first daily newscast. Vice’s news program will consist of five half-hour shows each week, airing 48 weeks per year. In a joint announcement, HBO and Vice said the newscast will include “the original on-the-ground reporting viewers expect from Vice, but in a daily format.”

The deal also more than doubles the number of annual episodes of Vice’s weekly HBO documentary series —from 14 episodes per year to 35 — while promising a total of 32 Vice-produced specials over the next four years. The new programming will be aired on the HBO network and be made available for online streaming.

Vice will also have its own branded channel on the new HBO Now streaming service.

“[Vice CEO Shane Smith] and the VICE team have produced some of the most groundbreaking and dynamic journalism anywhere. From the front lines in the Ukraine, to the icebergs of Antarctica and the streets of Ferguson, Vice news has helped illuminate and expand our understanding of an increasingly complex world,” HBO CEO Richard Plepler and programming president Michael Lombardo said in a joint statement.

Vice’s HBO documentary series, which first aired on HBO two years ago, recently started its third season after winning a Primetime Emmy award last year. The series, reported by Vice journalists including founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi, have reported on a range of topics like legal marijuana market in Colorado and a trip to visit North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un. Last month, HBO aired an hour-long Vice special report on cancer research.

For HBO, the expanded partnership with Vice provides an increased slate of programming meant to appeal to a younger audience, which is exactly the demographic likely being targeted with the much-anticipated launch of HBO Now next month. The streaming service is meant to appeal to a younger crowd without cable subscriptions and who could also be attracted to the idea of a daily news program.

Vice has long been considered a hot commodity by major media companies, including HBO parent Time Warner (TWX), which was rumored last year to be considering a deal for a large share of Vice that would have given the latter its own television channel. That deal never came to fruition, but Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox (FOX) previously bought a 5% share in Vice and later announced a filmmaking joint venture.

Last summer, Vice struck another deal that could potentially expand its television presence by taking $500 million in funding from cable network A&E and venture firm Technology Crossover Ventures. Each got a 10% stake in Vice while valuing the company at $2.5 billion. Shortly thereafter, Smith, Vice’s CEO, hinted that the company’s newly-stocked “war chest” could lead to a string of acquisitions while adding that Vice “would be stupid” not to consider an IPO.

Thursday’s announcement means even greater exposure for the Vice brand, which should do nothing to quell speculation over whether the company will soon go public.

As for Smith, the CEO touted the importance of the HBO partnership to his company’s growth. “Over the last few years, our relationship with HBO has morphed from a great business partnership into a transformative brand-builder,” Smith said in a statement. “This groundbreaking deal will create a new voice in news.”

UPDATE: This article has been corrected to show that the A&E and Technology Crossover Ventures investments in Vice happened last summer (in August and September, respectively), not in December.