Monday 6 January 2020 5:05 pm

Vice UK blames Brexit uncertainty as media group posts wider loss

Vice UK has taken aim at Brexit uncertainty after the youth-focused media group revealed ballooning losses and a decline in revenue.

The millennial mainstay reported a pre-tax loss of £2.9m for the 12 months to 31 December 2018, up from £2.2m the previous year, while turnover dropped by a third to £17.3m.

Read more: Buzzfeed issued strike-off warning over late company accounts

Vice UK, which operates a news and entertainment website, as well as third-party publishers and the Virtue ad agency, suffered a decline in revenue from both its digital and production businesses.

The company said uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations was “one of the biggest drivers” of this downturn in business, with revenue from within the EU dropping by more than 50 per cent over the year.

In addition, Vice booked an impairment charge of £1.4m in 2018, while a £1.8m exchange gain in 2017 was not repeated last year.

The group’s TV arm, which operates the Viceland channel, posted a pre-tax loss of £1.9m, compared to a £1.6m loss in 2017.

The figures highlight the challenges faced by digital publishers in the face of fierce competition for advertising dollars from tech behemoths Google and Facebook.

The competition watchdog last month warned that online media firms were unable to compete with the so-called duopoly “on equal terms” due to the sheer dominance of Silicon Valley giants in the market.

In February last year Vice Media – the US-based parent company – announced it would lay off roughly 10 per cent of its staff, including some in the UK. At the end of 2018, the firm employed 186 people in the UK, down from 193 the previous year.

Vice said that while it will focus on existing areas of the business, it will shift more attention to its Virtue ad agency, which it has identified as a key opportunity for growth.

Read more: Rivals ‘can’t compete’ with Google and Facebook on digital advertising

It comes after rival digital media giant Buzzfeed UK posted a loss of £9.4m in 2018, while turnover dropped from £26.5m to just £6.6m.

Last month City A.M. revealed that Companies House had issued a strike-off warning against Buzzfeed UK after the company was more than two months late in filing its accounts.