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Rogers to cut off support for Viceland TV station

It is also not clear what the Viceland TV decision means for the broader partnership between Rogers and Vice, which was struck under former Rogers CEO Guy Laurence, left, and Vice co-founder Shane Smith, right.

Emma Ewing-Nagy/The Globe and Mail

Rogers Media Inc. has informed its partner Vice Media Canada Inc. that it no longer plans to financially support the Viceland television channel, leaving the upstart station's future in Canada uncertain.

The TV channel aimed at a younger adult audience – which launched early last year, at the same time as a sister station with the same name in the U.S. – is a joint venture between Rogers Media and Vice, which also have a larger partnership that includes the Vice Canada content studio in the Liberty Village area in Toronto. (Rogers Media is owned by Toronto-based cable and wireless company Rogers Communications Inc.)

Read also: Suddenly, Vice content seems tone-deaf and terribly male

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Multiple sources said Viceland Canada's ratings are low and that it loses money and one person with direct knowledge of the discussions said Rogers has given Vice advance notice that it will no longer provide financial support for the venture. The company plans to cut off funding early next year, leaving the channel's future in serious doubt.

Rogers Media spokeswoman Andrea Goldstein said in an e-mail Tuesday evening that the company would not comment "on rumours and speculation."

Vice Media Canada spokesman Chris Ball also said Tuesday he would not comment on speculation.

It is also not clear what the Viceland TV decision means for the broader partnership between Rogers and Vice, which was struck under former Rogers CEO Guy Laurence, who left the company a year ago.

Mr. Laurence and Vice co-founder Shane Smith announced the $100-million, three-year partnership in October, 2014. The exact terms of the deal have never been public. At the time, Mr. Laurence said in an interview, "So it's a $100-million investment over the first three years. It doesn't mean it's a three-year deal and it stops by the way."

Viceland Canada was previously known as the Biography Channel, but Rogers and Vice relaunched it in late February, 2016. It operates under a licence for a discretionary television service and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) renewed its licence for five years in September.

In June, 2016, Rogers said it was adding six new shows to the Canadian channel, including the network's first scripted series, Nirvanna The Band The Show. Viceland has also run critically acclaimed content such as Ellen Page's Gaycation.

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Rogers owns 70 per cent of Viceland Canada while Vice owns the remaining 30 per cent, according to filings with the broadcast regulator. The station posted a loss of $2.49-million for the 12 months ended Aug. 31, 2016, based on the most recent CRTC data available.

The channel brought in $787,000 in advertising revenue that year, but subscriber fees, its main source of revenue, declined by 19 per cent to $4.675-million.

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