May 4, 2017

The Moby Group chief Saad Mohseni and the Vice News founder Shane Smith want to capture the eyeballs of the male millennial.

A male septuagenarian is helping to show them how.

"I always joke that we have the same godfather," says Mr Mohseni. "One of the people who most influenced Shane was also a person who has been very critical to us – which is Tom Freston."

The former Viacom chief and veteran media executive Mr Freston sits on the boards of both companies.

He also originally introduced the pair, who have formed a partnership to bring Vice News to the Middle East.

The young Mr Freston lived in Afghanistan in the 1970s when the country was on the so called "hippie trail".

"He got kicked out and went back to the US and was one of the founders of MTV and went on to lead Viacom," says Mr Mohseni.

"While he was there he created Comedy Central and VH1. He was the guy that green lit [the hit US cartoon shows] Beavis and Butthead and South Park and everything else.

So he’s been a very important figure in the media industry globally and he’s been the connection not just between us and Shane Smith but he was also instrumental in connecting both Shane and I to the Murdochs [the family whop control News International]."

In helping to set up MTV, which managed to connect a global youth audience decades before the arrival of Facebook and Twitter, he effected the same sort of disruptive influence that both the Vice and Moby founders are also now achieving.

Vice is known for its unconventional approach to news gathering, which has struck a chord with its mainly millennial audience.

With scoops such as the Cannibal Warlords of Liberia and The Islamic State, where a reporter embedded with ISIL for three weeks, it now reaches hundreds of millions of young people across its various platforms.

Last year the group operated in 30 countries but by the end of this year it expects that number to have grown to 80. Mr Mohseni says the tie up felt like a natural fit.

One of the things that intrigues everyone is how do we as advertisers, governments or NGO’s gain access to that very important demographic that no one else has basically any hold of – which is the 15 to 25-year-old males," he says.

"Vice has a strength there and in many of the markets where we operate we also have that market.

"Here it’s a little more difficult because the market is more fragmented and many of the linear networks are geared towards that 35-year-old housewife – the dramas and the game shows. So family viewing is slightly skewed towards females."

Vice has been successful in capturing the attention of the distracted male millennial and Mr Mohseni believes that can be replicated in the Middle East where it is estimated about 40 per cent of the population is under the age of 25.

Vice and Moby hope to both generate local content that can be exported to a global audience while at the same time bringing other programming in from outside the region.

The partnership expects to have a presence in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi and plans to hire local film makers and other media professionals.