Time Warner in talks on Vice Media stake: Reports

In this November 24, 2003 file photo, the headquarters of Time Warner company is seen in New York. US media conglomerate Time Warner has begun talks for a stake in the fast-growing online news operation Vice Media, reports said. -- PHOTO: AFP
In this November 24, 2003 file photo, the headquarters of Time Warner company is seen in New York. US media conglomerate Time Warner has begun talks for a stake in the fast-growing online news operation Vice Media, reports said. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US media conglomerate Time Warner has begun talks for a stake in the fast-growing online news operation Vice Media, reports said.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Time Warner is considering an investment of as much as US$1 billion (S$1.25 billion) in a deal that could give Vice the cable channel HLN, formerly known as CNN Headline News.

That followed a report in Britain's Sky News that the US media powerhouse could buy half the company, at a valuation of as much as US$2.2 billion.

Both reports said the talks had not finalised any deal. Time Warner declined to comment. Vice did not respond to a request for comment.

Vice is seen as one of the hottest online news outlets, providing news and videos and aiming at a youth-oriented audience. It began in Montreal as a magazine for music enthusiasts before shifting its focus and moving to the New York borough of Brooklyn.

Vice describes itself as "a global media brand producing and distributing premium digital media across platforms for 18-34 year olds". It claims 220 million unique visitors and 500 million video views per month, and has 4,000 employees in 35 offices worldwide. It also has partnerships with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Vice gained notoriety for sending former NBA star Dennis Rodman to North Korea last year.

It operates a popular YouTube channel and also produces news programming for Time Warner's HBO.

According to The New York Times, a stumbling block in the talks is whether Time Warner can reach a deal to buy out a five per cent stake in Vice held by rival media giant 21st Century Fox, controlled by Rupert Murdoch.

The news follows Time Warner's spinoff of its magazine publishing arm Time Inc. last Friday, a move seen as isolating the media group from the downturn in print journalism.