One of the first cable channels to really think outside the box when it came to branding has decided to return to something a bit more traditional.
Spike, which prided itself as a male equivalent to channels like Lifetime and Oxygen, will get a new name as early as next year. And no, it isn’t something eccentric or misspelled – it’s simply going to be called the Paramount Network.
Before you cue the crickets, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Lesley Goldberg suggests there really is a strategy behind the rebranding – and it’s inspired by what Disney has done when it comes to cable. You know, like that channel that bears the company name, and continues to dominate ratings in the cable sphere.
Newly minted Viacom chief executive officer Bob Bakish is said to be plotting a strategy for the company that’s similar to the ultra-synergistic Walt Disney Co., in creating branded entertainment that can be exploited across platforms. To that end, Disney has had great success around its namesake network.
The move could be a huge boon to Paramount as it tries to jumpstart its television operations again – its first major foray into the medium since Viacom’s split with CBS Corp. in 2006. The cable channel also could become the new home for many films in the Paramount library – a place where there are some valuable properties, despite the poor performance the studio has had in recent years at the box office.
There is no word on what might happen to Spike’s current programming lineup, which includes shows like The Mist from Stephen King and Lip Sync Battle. It is possible many of them could continue on the new Paramount Network, to help transition into a different lineup over the course of the next few years. Or Viacom could shift many of those shows to some of its other channels, like MTV.
The channel that would become Spike was first launched in 1983 as The Nashville Network, a cable channel dedicated to country-western music that regularly competed with Country Music Television, or as we know it better as today, CMT.
It was a joint venture between an insurance company and a satellite cable provider, and was acquired a few years later by a company that owned the once-popular Opryland USA theme park in Nashville, Tennessee, which closed in 1997.
Westinghouse Electric Corp. would pick up the channel in 1995, which also had acquired CBS. When Viacom swooped in a few years later to take both Westinghouse and CBS, it included The Nashville Network, which had been rebranded simply to TNN.
Viacom quickly shifted the channel away from its country-western roots, and more into a male demographic, expanding upon the existing NASCAR programming. The company changed the name to The National Network, but in 2003, decided to take an entirely different approach and rebrand the channel Spike.
Spike’s change to the Paramount Network isn’t the only change taking place in a crowded cable arena, Goldberg said.
Just last week, Oxygen confirmed its shift to a crime-focused network, and it followed cable sibling Esquire’s decision to abandon its linear channel. By the same token, the future of some of Viacom’s more niche cable brands have been speculated about as the cable ecosystem braces for a potential a la carte world.
That a la carte world, by the way, refers to the trend of letting consumers choose which cable channels they will pay for, and which they will just avoid. It’s in response to massive “cable-cutting” in recent years, where consumers are abandoning expensive cable packages of hundreds of channels to instead pay for streaming services individually, getting more focused programming at what could be a better cost.
Viacom was expected to make the announcement of the new Paramount Network official on Thursday.
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